Introduction*

Nadia Lovell


Belonging in need of emplacement?

Belonging to a particular locality evokes the notion of loyalty to a place, a loyalty that may be expressed through oral or written histories, narratives of origin as belonging, the focality of certain objects, myths, religious and ritual performances, or the setting up of shrines such as museums and exhibitions. Yet belonging is also fundamentally defined through a sense of experience, a phenomenology of locality which serves to create, mould and reflect perceived ideals surrounding place (Schama 1995; Tilley 1994). Accounts of how such loyalties are created, perpetuated and modified are of relevance to an understanding of identity at individual and, more importantly, collective levels, since belonging and locality as markers of identity often extend beyond individual experiences and nostalgic longing for a particular place. Belonging may thus be seen as a way of remembering (Connerton 1989; Fentress and Wickham 1994) instrumental in the construction of collective memory surrounding place (Hirsch 1995; Toren 1995). Yet belonging, with all its pragmatic connotations and potential for tying people to place and social relationships, also evokes emotions, sentiments of longing to be in a particular location, be it real or fictive. Rootedness and rootlessness evoke conditions of existence which tend to stress the emotional gravity of place. The exploration of how notions of belonging, localities and identities are constructed seems particularly relevant in current political contexts of ‘globalisation’, where the interface between localised understandings of belonging, locality and identity often seem to conflict with wider national and international political, economic and social interests. An examination of these concepts also appears especially topical since displacement, dislocation and dispossession have become such common themes in contemporary political experiences and debates. Locality and belonging may be moulded and defined as much by actual territorial emplacement as by memories of belonging to particular landscapes

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