Belonging is a word that seems to speak about boundaries, it gives us a ‘home’ but it also can erect ‘walls’. In a culture defined by individual possessions (or belongings) it is not easy to imagine that physical things can belong to more than one person or not belong to anyone. Belonging also seems to define cultural and political boundaries: if I say that I belong here, it is automatically implied that I do not belong there. However, the concept of belonging is not always applied in a coherent manner in today’s world; in a globalised culture and economy, the idea of belonging seems to remain unquestioned when it comes to the movement of capital and goods in a free market, but it is put at the forefront when it comes to the free movement and settlement of people. The idea of belonging seems to be particularly problematic when dealing with geopolitical decisions, transnational issues about resources and globalised problems such as climate change and conservation.
We, the organisers of this symposium, wanted to explore questions related to belonging and we realised at an early stage that we needed to allow for some cross-disciplinary contamination not only to answer the questions but to find the actual questions in the first place. In researching for this symposium, questions about Where became prominent, but crucially questions about Whom, and the subsequent, Why? As in ‘How can we reconsider where does knowledge belong, and to whom?’ or ‘Who owns the narratives that define our times and actions (or inactions), and who formulates the questions we ask of the future?’
As a tool for unpacking and exploring ideas about belonging and their relation to sustainability, these questions seem a very good entry point, so we invite you to join us in the quest for the Where and Whom, and also When and How and of course Why, but most importantly, Why not!