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NIAS Talk

Mapping Belonging as a Field of Study

‘To belong: to be in the right place or a suitable place. To feel happy or comfortable in a situation.’ According to the Cambridge dictionary, the very word ‘belonging’ conjures up warm feelings. But what about the tensions present in this word?

As NIAS celebrates its 50th anniversary, we investigate a recurrent theme within this research institute, the topic of ‘Belonging’ – who belongs and who does not? The temporality and spatiality of belonging are continuously at play. Issues of inclusion versus exclusion, of borders and boundaries, of (in)equality in a globalizing world show Belonging to be a timely and important, yet underexplored topic of academic study.

Fueled by debates on populism, globalization, refugee crises, and increasing inequality – both on national and global levels – the topic of belonging has taken a flight over the last few years in various fields of study, dispersed over a wide array of disciplines. During this NIAS talk, Jan Willem Duyvendak and Fenneke Wekker sketch the landscape of this growing academic field, with the aim to set up a research agenda to bring insights from a multitude of angles into play. Why is it relevant to investigate and research global phenomena of belonging from interdisciplinary perspectives?

About the speakers

Jan Willem Duyvendak is Director of NIAS and the Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam since 2014. His research interests include new social movements, the changing welfare state, and such themes as belonging and nativism. He has published numerous articles and books, including The Politics of Home. Belonging and Nostalgia in Western Europe and the United States (2011), Crafting Citizenship. Negotiating Tensions in Modern Society (2012, co-authored with Menno Hurenkamp and Evelien Tonkens), and The Culturalization of Citizenship. Belonging and Polarization in a Globalizing World (2016, edited with Peter Geschiere and Evelien Tonkens).

Fenneke Wekker is Head of Academic Affairs at NIAS and a political sociologist and writer. Her main research interests lie in issues of home and belonging, inclusion and exclusion, and urban ethnography. She recently authored Building Belonging. Affecting Feelings of Home through Community Building Interventions (2020).

Irene Stengs is senior researcher at the Meertens Instituut (KNAW). Since 2017 she is Professor by special appointment “Anthropology of Ritual and Popular Culture” at the Vrije Universiteit. Among others, Steng’s research focuses on the cultural politics of Dutchness. Various perspectives are being used to examine which emotional, aesthetic, and political dimensions shape what the project defines as “Dutchness.” This research is being undertaken along with the department of ethnology at the Meertens Instituut. Stengs will be a discussant in this NIAS Talk.

Amade M’charek is Professor Anthropology of Science at the department of Anthropology of the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests are in forensics, forensic anthropology and race. M’charek will be a discussant in this NIAS Talk.

Tanu Patodia is Science Communicator at NIAS and will be moderating the event.

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