Reconstructing the Multiple Meanings of Belonging: Some Notes on the Power of Definition, Regimes of Translation and the Researcher's Positionality

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:25 AM
Room: F201
Oral Presentation
Anna AMELINA , Goethe-University Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany
In their recent studies scholars of transnational migration identify various categories of belonging (including gender, ethnicity, class, sexuality, disability and age) as being decisive for the formation actors’ subjectivity. Moreover, some scholars indicate that mobile individuals who simultaneously relate to the sending and the receiving locality experience the so-called double location, meaning that they may have different positions in the hierarchies of the sending and the receiving countries. For example, migrant care workers from the Ukraine who reside in Germany may experience a subordinated position (in terms of gender, ethnicity and class) in the receiving setting, but are perceived as having ‘made it’ in the Ukraine. In other words, the gender-related (or other) categories may have different meanings in different national and also transnational contexts (such as diaspora, for example).

The paper suggests combining the intersectional analysis with cultural sociology, transnational, postcolonial studies and reflections on the researcher’s positionality, in order to be able to reconstruct the (potentially) multiple interpretations of categories of belonging. Three questions are of particular importance:

First, how should we reconstruct the multiple interpretations of belonging without essentializing them and without bounding them to the particular national setting? Here scholars benefit from the analysis of ways by which categories became nationalized or transnationalized.

Second, we need to ask how actors and (imagined) communities negotiate various interpretations of a particular category (like ‘gender’). Under what conditions, do some interpretations become dominant? How do diasporas and other cross-border arenas develop the ‘regimes of translation’ of particular categories of belonging?

Finally, we need to clarify the question of who carries out multiple interpretations: the researcher or the researched subject? This reflection should not only include the obligatory disclosure of the researcher’s subjectivity, but also a careful self-reflection of positioning towards the sociological discourses on belonging and identity.