Belonging Today

Belonging Today

Belonging Today Working Group is a forum for recurring conversations, inspiration and collaboration between scholars on the topic of belonging and its transformations in the contemporary world.

By belonging we mean three interconnected dynamics:

  1. person’s feelings or identification with a collectivity
  2. that collectivity’s recognition of her or his belonging, and
  3. the practices and material conditions which constitute belonging and exclusion or isolation.

Our focus on belonging directs the gaze to several classical problems of social sciences, including solidarity, social bonds, social integration, differentiation, domination, change and distinction. In examining contemporary forms of belonging, the Working Group sees itself as a descendent of this long intellectual lineage but it does so without reproducing the conventional and theoretically fixed ways to understand the question, originally posed as “what holds society together?”

In asking “how do people belong in the contemporary world”, and doing so from a multidisciplinary perspective, we re-address the original framing of the question by: (1) beginning with an understanding that there are multiple and coexistent forms and locations of belonging, as well as of exclusion, from those rooted in economic exchanges to those rooted in national beliefs, and from those located in the “private sphere” of intimacy, household and kinship to those located in the setting of community; (2) seeing belonging as both a political and personal question, a place of ambivalence and conflict, in which the capacity to belong, and the sense of belonging, is connected to an unequal access to both symbolic and material resources; (3) asking how contemporary belongings are formed and transformed in relation to collectivities, but also the life-projects of “individuals”, who sometimes seek forms of belonging, but other times seek to escape or disclaim them.

Understanding contemporary belonging means accounting for changes in intimacy, family structure and gender roles, the growing importance of transnational ties and communities, the decline in long term wage based employment and unionized labor, extensive migration and redefined immigration policies to mention a few.

Four foci of the Working Group include:

  1. Political belonging (membership; inclusion/exclusion)
  2. Economic belonging (work and organizational life)
  3. Localities of belonging (from the local community and neighbourhood to the non-local or transnational)
  4. Personal belonging (personally significant bonds and personal attachments).

These sub-themes are not mutually exclusive, but overlapping, coexistent and mutually informative both empirically and theoretically. Moreover, in each case we seek to examine belonging in multiple ways: as a political question; in terms of the material infrastructures (from passports to policies to technologies) that make belonging possible or restrict it; as something rooted in practices and social categories, but also agency; in terms of how it is organized; in temporal terms (including biographical but also larger historical transformations); and finally, in terms of those who do not belong or whose belonging is restricted (as for example the undocumented immigrant).

Kaisa Ketokivi

Post-Doctoral Researcher, Lecturer University of Helsinki, Finland; Fellow, Institute for Public Knowledge

Colin Jerolmack

Assistant Professor of Sociology New York University

If you are interested in learning more about this working group, please contact Kaisa Ketokivi.

Max Besberis

PhD Candidate in Sociology New York University

Ruth Braunstein

PhD Candidate in Sociology New York University

Nancy Foner

Distinguished Professor of Sociology Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

Carlos Forment

Associate Professor of Sociology The New School

Sylvie Honig

Doctoral Candidate University of Chicago

Natasha Iskander

Assistant Professor of Public Policy Wagner School of Public Service, NYU

Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski

Chair of Political Science, Willy Brandt Center for German and European Studies, University of Wroclaw

Kaisa Ketokivi

Post-Doctoral Researcher, Lecturer University of Helsinki, Finland

Shamus Khan

Assistant Professor of Sociology Columbia University

Eric Klinenberg

Professor of Sociology at NYU | Editor of Public Culture New York University

Michael McQuarrie

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology University of California, Davis

Ann Mische

Associate Professor of Sociology Rutgers, School of Arts and Sciences

Adam Murphree

PhD Candidate in Sociology New York University

Zalman Newfield

PhD Candidate in Sociology New York University

Anne Rawls

Professor of Sociology Bentley University

Sasha Roseneil

Professor of Sociology and Social Theory and Director of the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research University of London

Harel Shapira

Postdoctoral Fellow Institute for Public Knowledge

Judith Stacey

Professor Social and Cultural Analysis and Sociology

David Stark

Arthur Lehman Professor of Sociology and International Affairs Columbia University

Iddo Tavory

Assistant Professor of Sociology New School for Social Research

Sylvie Tissot

Professor of Political Science University of Paris-8

Stacy Torres

Doctoral Candidate NYU Sociology

Eduard Vallory

Professor of Political Science University of Paris-8