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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P206)

'Be-longing': ethnographic explorations of self and place

Location Tower A, Piso 0, Room 5
Date and Start Time 19 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Lisa Åkesson (University of Gothenburg) email
Elizabeth Challinor (CRIA/UM Centre for the Study of Social Anthropology, University of Minho) email
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Short Abstract

The aim is to explore the re-making of self and place through an analysis of the ambiguities of peoples' changing sense of ‘be-longing’: understood as the constant re-positioning of the self in accordance with memories of the past, engagements with the present and longings for the future.

Long Abstract

Ways of feeling the world are inseparable from the process of forging a sense of self in which memory plays a part. In the constant re-making of self and place, the past is drawn upon to make sense of the present and to look to the future. Place is also made through social interaction. People make places through listening to what kin and friends tell them about these places, and then re-make them into something they themselves belong to, at least in part. People belong to present, past and future places with varying degrees of commitment. In this respect, ‘be-longing’ can be understood as the constant re-positioning of the self in accordance with memories of the past, engagements with the present and longings for the future. This panel welcomes papers that explore the ambiguities of people's changing relations to self and place. What are the perceived potentials and limitations of different places and how do they impact upon people's sense of ‘be-longing’? How do the social relations of transnational families influence self-making projects? What kinds of stories are told about places 'at home' or in the Diaspora, and how are they appropriated by people's longings for the future? What are the roles of ‘imagined places’ or ‘virtual spaces’ in shaping people's daily lives? How is the past used to deal with the uncertainties of the future? What conflicting positions do the pursuits of physical, material and emotional well-being engender in the aspirations and strategies of self- and place-making?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

(Be-)longing re-directed: labour migrants turn to their places of settlement

Author: Jasna Capo-Zmegac (Institut za etnologiju i folkloristiku)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper will explore the narratives by which labour migrants claim to have appropriated the places in which they settled thirty or more years ago as ‘their own’. The interpretation will try to understand this repositioning in the context of individual, family and historical time.

Long Abstract

The paper will explore how first generation economic migrants re-make their sense of belonging in transnational and translocal space which spans their land of origin – Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina and the land of their residence – Germany. Three or more decades after ‘temporarily’ settling in Germany, these so called Gastarbeiter, appear to have re-positioned themselves with respect to their once abandonded (yet constantly visited, nurtured, renovated,...) homes in different places in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. One aspect of this is the longing for their places of residence when away from them, even when spending vacation in the places of origin. The paper will explore the narratives by which labour migrants claim to have appropriated the places of settlement as ‘their own’. In order to understand this re-positioning the paper will examine it in the context of individual and family biography, stage in (family) migration history and macro-political events that have been structuring migrants’ lives in the past twenty years.

Negotiating new places: being and longing in a post-conflict society

Author: Sanda Üllen (University of Vienna)  email
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Short Abstract

More than a decade after the end of the war on the Balkans, the majority of Bosnian refugees and internally displaced persons decided to stay in their receiving countries/towns constructing new places of belonging, where ‘home’ and belonging emerge as multi-located and contested sites, having manifold consequences on social relationships.

Long Abstract

In recent writings about migration and questions of belonging, belonging is often linked to concepts of transformations of home and identity, where people operate strategically and relationally in shaping their senses of belonging. Belonging is thus characterized by having a double dimension: it is expressed through lived experiences ("being", intersected with hegemonic regulations of identity) and through the emotional level of imagination, desire and nostalgia ("longing", often seen as a relationship to the past). Home in this sense, also has a double dimension: first of all it is an actual, concrete place of lived experiences but it is also a "metaphorical space of personal attachment" (Armbruster 2002). But sometimes home can also be a place which does not belong to the people or a place they cannot return to. Based on ethnographich research among Bosnian refugees and IDP's in Copenhagen, Vienna and Sarajevo I would like to discuss how memories of the war-related experiences are deployed and negotiated to re-establish a sense of belonging in national and transnational context. What does belonging mean for persons who have violently been driven out of their country/hometown? How strong is the identification with the place of origin? Where do they belong? In order to answer these questions, special attention will also be paid on different strategies of place-making people use to (re)connect to and (re)localize themselves within a particular place or community within a new social context and on implications this has on everyday lives and social relationships among them.

Finns in the Diaspora

Author: Annikki Kaivola-Bregenhöj (Turku University)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper analyses the experiences of two Finnish minorities, in Russia and in Sweden during the 1980s and the 1990s and compares the emotional ties between them and between their places of belonging. Their stories reveal different connections with the past, the present and the future.

Long Abstract

Where do people belong when they have lost their home country or moved voluntarily to another country? This theme was one of the most central questions when I interviewed two Finnish minorities. In 1984 I met a group of Finns in the Swedish county Dalarna, and in 1992-1993 some Ingrian Finns south of St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1954 a free Nordic labour market was created and in the years after many Finns migrated to Sweden which suffered a labour force shortage. Almost all of my 13 interviewees still had active ties with Finland, but their emotional relations with Finland and Sweden were differed. Some of them had found their place in Sweden while others thought their engagement was temporary, suffered from homesickness but continued nevertheless. But why didn't they return to Finland?

Ingrian Finns (28 in number) belonged to a group, which in the seventeenth century and later left Finland and settled across the border. During the WWII they were victims of Stalin's ethnic cleansing. Some had been able to return to their home villages. They lived a good but poor everyday life but talked about their bad experiences as if it were yesterday. Emotions were present in them, even though fear, irritation, anxiety or hate did not break out in words. During the interviews tears could burst out suddenly, yet a moment later could stop. My informants were worried about the future because time and again in the past authorities had let them down, and no-one could be trusted.

Places revisited: transnational families, stories and belonging

Author: Pihla Maria Siim (University of Tartu)  email
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Short Abstract

By analysing interview material, I aim to show different strategies that members of transnational families use in order to reposition themselves in relation to different places. I will also pay attention to generational and gender differences in stories of place-related experiences.

Long Abstract

Identity, belonging, places and family stories are the keywords in my research on transnational families. Societal changes and crossing different borders often further increase the need to negotiate family and identity matters. People are not only shaped by places in their life, but they also employ different strategies to make a place feel like "home". The relations to different places can be (re)created, for example, by using personal experience stories as well as narratives of the family. I am especially interested in the emotional and social side of peoples' place-related experiences.

The main research material I am working on consists of interviews I made with former Soviet Union immigrants living in Finland and their family members living in the country of origin (Russian Karelia and Estonia). Reasons for moving have often been social or economical, but also emotional connection to a new place of residence has to be established. This repositioning is a constant process, affected also by the surrounding societal and cultural context. The choices to stay or to move have to be justified not only to oneself, but also to others (relatives and wider society).

There are different possibilities to feel at home, also in many places simultaneously. Transnational way of life does not mean rootlessness, although themes of homelessness and feelings of estrangement are also present in my material. There are generational and gender differences on how people experience places. Stories told by those family members who have stayed and those who have moved differ also significantly.

Feelings of belonging and the concept of home: international students

Author: Zerrin Tandogan (Bilkent University)  email
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Short Abstract

The impact of the mobility of a group of international students in Finland and Turkey upon their perceptions of belonging, conceptions of home and their intercultural competences will be examined through a discussion of the empirical data collected from in-depth interviews.

Long Abstract

In this study, there will be an analysis of emprical data concerning the feelings of belonging and the concept of home from the viewpoint of university students in motion. Mobility is an important factor in terms of the development as well as the perception and conception of one's own identity/ies. How individuals/students realize and actualize their intercultural potentialities in a culturally different setting and how these experiences influence their perceptions of belonging and their home concept are the basic questions of this study. The data that is collected through in-dept interviews conducted among international students in Turkey and Finnland will provide us the relevant answers and a profile of a small group of students who are in motion.

Belonging, home and identity

Author: Viktorija Ceginskas (University of Jyväskylä)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper discusses key aspects of the relationship between identity, socialization and notions of attachment for a group of adults from binational and multilingual families, and how their sense of belonging is shaped and expressed.

Long Abstract

Over the past decades the number of transnational families has increased. Among them are binational families in which both parents originally derive from different countries and speak different languages. The emergence of this particular form of transnational families poses questions about the children's sense of belonging and identity. The sense of home and belonging are intrinsically related and often become a synonym for the country where the individual lives, which again is assumed to be the country of origin to which one belongs by virtue of multiple links.

But what about the particular cases of the children from binational families who have experienced attachment to different places due to their parents' origins and their own socialization. How do these children who grew up with multiple linguistic, cultural and national attachments express and define their sense of home and belonging? How much of belonging, how much of longing and how much of actually being in place are involved?

This paper discusses key aspects of the sense of belonging for a group of adults from binational and multilingual families. The interviewees give a variety of answers which all point to the fact that their sense of belonging is linked to, both the concept of home and their identity. These multilingual adults prove to be active agents engaged with the cultural and linguistic models of their past and the interaction with others, making pragmatic choices with regard to their at times conflicting relationship between language identities, socialization and inherited cultural traditions.

Coming of age in diaspora: a multi-temporal approach on Somali male mobilities

Author: Petri Hautaniemi (University of Helsinki)  email
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Short Abstract

Somali childhood in the 1990s is examined in the light of contested ethnic and clan membership. The complexities of returning to Somalia under pressure to repatriate are elucidated through the dynamics of repatriation, development aid and personal responsibilities vis-à-vis one's place of origin.

Long Abstract

The present article proposes to gain new knowledge about the contested Somali childhood in 1990`s as a resourceful experience especially in the light of ethnic and clan membership in and out side Somalia. The aim is to highlight the very complex idea of returning to country of Somalia in the context of growing pressure of repatriation. The article will address the dynamics and strategies of repatriation, development aid and personal responsibilities vis-à-vis one's place of origin.

It is argued, that multi-temporal processes and time-spanning identifications have been highly neglected aspect in research on diasporas and development. Consequently the article focuses on the relations between circulations of displaced children, childhoods in exile,later repatriation and the process of development and state reconstruction. It is suggested to introduce an agency-oriented ethnographic work on these issues. This is based on contemporary anthropological insights regarding the place, culture and mobilities and cultural capital. The article includes analysis of various forms of

resources regarding the dynamics of Somali male repatriation and transnational family affairs.

Memory, identity and the city in life stories of daughters of southern Israeli immigrant families

Author: Yael Zilberman ( Kaye Academic College of Education)  email
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Short Abstract

In this paper I wish to focus on the gendered textual representations of memory, identity, and place in two life stories of daughters of families that immigrated to Israel in its first years. I will show and analyze the differences in the way they use strategies of self- and place-making.

Long Abstract

In this paper I wish to focus on the gendered textual representations of memory, identity, and place in two life stories of daughters to families that immigrated to Israel from Iraq and Romania in the late 1940s' and early 1950s'. These women, that grew up in the first decade of the State of Israel in the city of Beer-Sheva, the capital of the south, can be considered as a “cohort regional generation” in terms of their life histories. Yet, a sensitive reading of their narratives shows that, despite obvious similarities, there are fundamental differences in the way the narrators use family folklore and childhood memories, and in the way they construct their autobiographical "selves". In my paper I will present some of their strategies of self- and place-making from a biographical perspective that pays attention to their life cycle, as well as to historical conditions. I will show that they are using parts of the city they consider as 'sites of memories' in accordance with the organizing principle of their life stories.

Histories of belonging: non-archival memory among the Tupinambá of Olivença

Author: Susana Viegas (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon)  email
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Short Abstract

Through analysis of how the Tupinambá of Olivença (south of Bahia, Brazil) inhabit their houses and territory, this paper explores the way they deal with memory. It looks at how enactments of experiences are far more important than celebrations of topographical sites or of archives about the past.

Long Abstract

In this paper I will explore ideas on non-archival memory. The paper is based on the ways the Tupinambá of Olivença (south of Bahia/Brazil) express their difficulties not only with regard to the absence of archives of publications, documents and artefacts about their past, but also with regard to their difficulties, in the present, to constitute any archive of their artefacts, books, documents and pictures. This is particularly meaningful considering that the historical Tupinambá are one of the most well know and documented indigenous groups in the history of indigenous people. The Tupinambá were living in Brazil and were contacted by travellers, colonial administrators and missionaries since the early sixteenth century.

The notion of non-archival memory will be addressed through a lens of the diminishing relevance that the Tupinambá attribute towards specific topographical places and, mostly, their difficulties in the constitution of a "Museum" of the Tupinambá. I argue that these attitudes are part of a general way in which memory is constituted through re-enactments of the past in the present and not in the past as an archive. This will be ethnographically addressed through the attitude of the Tupinambá towards 'place as memory'. Moving a home from one place to another (deconstructing and reconstructing it again) constitutes a landscape where memory is encapsulated in referents (such as fruit trees) not to be venerated as ancestors or a nostalgic attitude towards the past, but to be reminded for the lived experience of those who planted them.

In sum, the paper argues that for the Tupinambá memory is far more a possibility of renewing life than of celebrating the past and explores the consequences of these ideas for the understanding of places and the past in what is here referred to as 'non-archival memory'.

Be-longing: kibbutz life in an era of change

Author: Yuval Achouch (Western Galilee College)  email
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Short Abstract

In Israel, the kibbutz society has undergone a revolution. Two thirds of the 270 kibbutzim have moved from a socialist structure to a privatized one in the spirit of neo-liberalism. How do Kibbutz members deal with the change? How do they integrate it into their biographies? How does it affect their sense of "be-longing" and of belonging to the kibbutz? The lecture will attempt to answer these questions.

Long Abstract

While telling their life story people construct themselves. They organize their memories and experiences in the past to understand their condition in the present and imagine the future. They make a categorization of the social world, in past and present, and situate themselves in accordance to it.

For the two last decades kibbutz society has been involved in a revolution. This revolution has completely transformed the equalitarian and collectives structures of the classic kibbutz, and through a process of privatization has instituted a new and individualistic way of life in kibbutz. In this process of change, the traditional distribution of goods according to personal needs has been replaced by the distribution of salaries according to external market value; public dining rooms had been closed; cultural activities become rare and people retreat into the private sphere. In these circumstances, people in kibbutz have to deal with these changes and have to integrate them into their own biography.

An analysis of 40 life stories of kibbutz members, from different kibbutzim and with different social characteristics, reveals 6 different ideal types of strategy to deal with kibbutz condition in an era of change. Each strategy is a particular way of re-positioning the self in accordance with memories of the past, engagements with the present and longings for the future. Each strategy is also loaded with varied meanings concerning kibbutz history, the local community, the actual social change. All of those meanings also influence the sense of belonging to the kibbutz.

Bike riders in Sierra Leone: shape-shifters in an unstable social landscape

Author: Michael Bürge (University of Konstanz)  email
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Short Abstract

Commercial motorbike riders in Sierra Leone face a variety of social constraints and insecurities in pursuing their everyday activities. Navigating the social and physical landscape they constantly re-invent themselves to comply with various demands posed by different actors and the environment.

Long Abstract

Commercial motorbike riders in Sierra Leone-many of them former fighters in the civil war-navigate a highly fluid landscape that requires their actions and selfs to be constantly tuned to the movement of the immediate socio-political environment as well as to its future unfolding. Particularly exposed to critical scrutiny of the people around them due to their activity and their past as fighters, they are bound to ride a variety of (social, moral, imaginative) trails to comply with all the demands, thereby molding their selves as well as the spaces they move in. My contribution aims at shedding a light on the tactics the riders in Makeni apply to move within the exigencies of the present, the legacies of the past and the longings for the future, and the challenges they face. Floating in constantly transforming social and physical landscapes, they constantly have to change their shape. For not losing orientation, they try weave a reliable network to enjoy the security of a fixed place. By providing transport and other services to the community, within town, but also beyond national borders they actively shape the landscape and their own imaginaries and longings. The multiplicity of roads potentially possible to take for riders for shaping their everyday life, the freedom but also urge to position themselves, poses at the same time great challenges to the individual not to lose orientation, but to know how to govern their own lives.

Settling into motion: expressions of "be-longing" among cruisers

Author: Martina Kleinert (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)  email
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Short Abstract

The continuous onward-movement of a circumnavigation demands a constant re-positioning of the (late-modern)cruiser’s self within changing geographical places and social spaces. Yet the persistence of the cruising community and its camaraderie provide a way of being “at home” while moving on.

Long Abstract

Main incentives for the majority of 'yachties' choosing the independent mobility of sailing boats for a lifestyle of cruising are self-development and self-realization. As much as a circumnavigation presents a voyage to real distant shores, it aims for a discovery of imagined destinations as well as the sailor's self. The continuous onward-movement demands a constant re-positioning of the cruiser's sense of belonging within changing geographical places and social spaces. While the yacht may present an invariable home of security and cosiness, yachties do have to deal with the consequences of a long-term departure and disengagement from the "home" of their society of origin, struggling with loosening bonds to family and friends the longer the voyage continues, without ever "arriving" permanently somewhere else. However, while long-distance cruising unrestrictedly must be beheld as an individualistic venture, it does not mean complete isolation. Fellow yachties constitute a stable circle of acquaintances and therefore a reliable social environment, providing mutual trust and understanding in contrast to the transient nature of cruising. There is a distinct feeling of being "at home" within the cruising community, embracing not only today's sailors roaming the ocean but those of past decades as well. With cruising being not just a late-modern phenomenon of increased mobility, it is both the individual past and the history of cruising that serves as a background for yachties to negotiate their self-concept.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.