"Belonging" in the Study of Younger Generations of Migrant Background

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:47 AM
Room: F201
Oral Presentation
Mari TOIVANEN , Social Research/Sociology, University of Turku (Finland), Turku, Finland
This study discusses the analytic purchase of the concept of “belonging” to study identity formation among younger generations of migrant background. It is argued that “identity” has more usage as an empirical concept, whereas “belonging” provides more analytic purchase to grasp the underlying mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion that inform young people’s identity formation.

The theoretical discussion will be informed by an empirical study on young Kurds’ negotiations of belonging in Finland. The qualitative study looks at how young Kurds narrate their belonging in terms of various mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, including institutional arrangements and (racialized) discursive categorizations. The broader theoretical premises of the empirical study lie on transnationalism, intersectionality and narrativity, and the theoretical discussion leads to question the analytical edge of “belonging” and how it addresses the questions of who gets to belong and who does not. The case study shows that young Kurds construct a sense of belonging in terms of the discursive construction of national belonging and “otherness” in the Finnish context. The racialized boundaries of “Finnishness” echo in their narrations and position them as the “other”, namely the “immigrant”, “refugee” or “foreigner” on the basis of their darker embodied signifiers.

Floya Anthias argues that belonging, in contrast to identity, assumes access and participation, and becomes activated in situations of denied membership and experiences of difference. In this sense, it is suggested that “belonging” better captures the political dimension of feeling at home among the younger generations of migrant background. Such theoretical choices also bear consequences on the methodological questions. This study employs the intersectional frame to analyse the intersecting attributes of gender, age and ethnicity impacting researcher positionality and the interaction situations with the interviewees. Hence, the theoretical and methodological challenges of employing “belonging” in juncture with the intersectional frame will be explored.