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Language and Belonging

Local Categories and Practices in a Guatemalan Highland Community

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Rita Vallentin

In this book, the author introduces belonging from a sociolinguistic perspective as a concept that is accomplished in interaction. Belonging can be expressed linguistically in social, spatial and temporal categories – indexing rootedness, groupness and cohesion. It can also be captured through shared linguistic practices within a group, e.g. collectively shared narrative practices. Using conversation analysis and an analysis of narrative as practice bolstered with ethnographic knowledge, the author shows how belonging is tied to locally contextualized use of deictics and to collectively shared narrations of the past in a Guatemalan community. The book examines the understudied phenomenon of belonging at the intersection of pragmatics and linguistic anthropology.

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1. Introduction

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1. Introduction

It was a damp morning during the summer of 2009 in Guatemala when Lola1 climbed up a steep path with her eldest daughter and myself to collect ripe macadamia nuts from her small parcel of land. During a short break, and with a view over the community houses, smoke billowing from their hearths, she points to a small piece of land where the cemetery lies. She tells me that her grandparents are buried there because they were born ‘here’, that her father is buried there as he was also born ‘here’ and that, one day, she too will be buried in the very same cemetery because aquí nací y aquí voy a morir ‘I was born here and here I’m going to die’. As unanticipated as LOA’s articulation of life and death that morning on our way to work was, it was deeply revealing regarding her understanding of local attachment through the trajectory of generations. It pointed to a specific spatially bound conceptualization of belonging.

Arriving at this conclusion, and, hence, the overall topic of this book, has been a long journey. It started when I traveled to Guatemala as a Master’s student in 2009. I was doing research on global connectedness and its repercussions on community members’ perceptions of being part of a global imagined community (Anderson, 1983) based on the experiences of a rural community in the western highlands of Guatemala, the Nueva Alianza. The Alianza has an extraordinary story of struggle, and, as a result, its local people today run several projects with links to national and international governmental and non-governmental institutions. This is quite unusual given that it is a small village of just 350 inhabitants located in the mountains near Quetzaltenango. During the two months I stayed in the community, I participated in long hours of routine daily work, and in the evenings spent time with the families and attended organized projects and meetings. I have analyzed the interviews I conducted at that time for their content on relations of the community with outsiders and their experience with global topics such as organic and fair-trade farming, environmentalism and peasant struggle. However, while focusing on the relations of the community with the outside world, insights into the actual collective self-conceptions of the community as consolidated and linked to place and group emerged as a side topic to my initial interview readings. In particular, the narratives unfolding at the beginning of each interview seemed to be a favorable locus for interlocutors to establish their self-conceptions. Moreover, I noticed that certain topics and linguistic means repeated themselves ← 1 | 2 → in the narratives. There was “something” to the narratives and the interactions with the community members during my first research stay that I could not yet pin down in succinct analysis. Neither could I use them to form a concise research question back then. Because of this, I returned to the community in 2011, this time focusing on interactions of the community members with “outsiders” other than me, as well as in-group meetings among themselves.

My guiding questions during this second fieldwork trip focused broadly on the concept of identity: How do community members speak about their identity, and which categories play a role in their identifications? The more specific research questions that ultimately drove me to write this book only emerged after a prolonged period of engagement in the field, and after meticulous re-reading of the recorded interactions from 2009 that I complemented with other interactions during my second stay in 2011. I was particularly intrigued that ethnic categories or practices seemed to play no role in the everyday lives of the community. The community is not only noteworthy for its struggle to acquire land, but also for its identification with non-ethnic categories. This is unusual for a rural village in the Guatemalan western highlands, where the majority of communities identify as either indigenous or as being from a “mixed” origin. Especially after participating in an interaction in which ethnic categories were explicitly negotiated and rejected (analyzed in detail in chapter 6), the recorded data seemed to merit more specific questions about belonging, a concept that encompasses spatial, temporal and social2 categories of identification as well as shared practices that bind a group together. Therefore, the questions this book seeks to answer are as follows:

1. How do the speakers establish belonging to their community in interaction?

2. What categories and positions play a role in these linguistic accomplishments?

3. How can belonging with the community be accomplished by participating in the shared practice of narrating?

These questions are truly “grounded” (Glaser & Strauss, 2006 [1967]) in the data. They emphasize the relevance of theoretical concepts in the specific field of research (Atkinson & Hammersley, 2007; Hughes-Freeland, 1999). The theoretical ← 2 | 3 → concept is not pre-determined and “applied” to the local community context. A preliminary analysis of the means with which speakers talk about themselves and the community inspired me to write this book, as it encouraged theoretical thinking, not as initially planned in terms of identity, but rather in terms of belonging. The analytical reading of the narratives from 2009 or the interactions with community members such as Lola makes much more sense in retrospect in the light of this rather new theoretical conceptualization. Accordingly, this book sets out to describe and analyze a rural community’s belonging as expressed with linguistic means through narratives, categorizations and positionings in different interactional contexts. It is a second objective of this book to provide a theoretical overview of the heretofore under-theorized concept of belonging and how it is linked to, but still different from concepts of identity.

This work is broadly positioned at the junction of linguistic anthropology, ethnography and pragmatics. The first disciplinary placement is due to this book’s “focus on language as a set of symbolic resources that enter the constitution of social fabric” (Duranti, 1997, 3). Belonging in the community is tied to specific categories and positions, which are expressed through language. They obtain a specific meaning in the contexts of interaction in which belonging is made implicitly or explicitly relevant by the speakers, but also in the historical context of the community. To understand these contexts and the emic and local linguistic means in establishing categories and positions, the question of belonging is also approached from an ethnographic angle as a:

“study of people in naturally occurring settings or ‘fields’ by means of methods which capture their social meanings and ordinary activities, involving the researcher participating directly in the setting, if not also the activities, in order to collect data in a systematic manner but without meaning being imposed on them externally” (Brewer, 2000, 10).

Finally, the pragmatics approach focuses on the actual use of language (the “Handlungsqualität von Sprache”, Ehlich 1992, 961) and how people can “achieve” or “do” something with linguistic means in particular social and interactional contexts. The “communicative problem” (Hausendorf, 2000, 99) of belonging needs to be generated by the speaker and reconstructed as such by the analyst.

Why does a book on belonging and language use matter? My discussion and analysis addresses the larger issue of inclusion and exclusion, and how both are conceptualized and established locally. In a world that seems to be more and more fragmented – where people are mobile (voluntarily or forced) and borders and boundaries can (seemingly) be trespassed with ease – politics of belonging, of inside and outside, and questions of who is allowed to belong and who is not ← 3 | 4 → gain increasing importance. In the uprising of national agendas (for instance in the U.S., Germany, Britain and Poland), the analysis of these issues and the role of language use as a tool to extend power becomes more and more pressing.3 This study, of course, is limited in its empirical range as it focuses on a very specific case with comparatively few participants; however, it offers an approach to belonging grounded in categories and practice, helping the reader to understand local and emic constructions of belonging that do not comply to categories applied from outside this region. Grounding a theory of belonging in specific empirical data will provide insights beyond the specific case; namely how belonging is established in interaction in other – and larger – communities.

Finally, I want to comment on the issues of ethics and anonymity in this book. In the following chapters, I write about a real community and interactions between real people in this community. In terms of anonymity, exposing a small-scale community like this and describing it in the detail necessary for my analysis might be perceived as problematic. During my research stays in the Nueva Alianza, community members frequently emphasized that they want to make their story known – that they want the example of their struggle and success to be spread to other parts of the world and to as many people as possible. As a researcher with the intention of writing a book, they decided that I could serve as someone to communicate their story, goals and needs. Thus, they encouraged me to use the real community name and make their story known to a broader audience. After all, tourism and interest from visitors is one of their main sources of income, and this research another way to support this project. The individual speakers will, nevertheless, be anonymized using changed names in the course of the analysis.4

In section 1.1, I will give a short overview of recent developments in research on belonging in relation to language use, and how my approach can complement the present insights on the topic. Secondly, the community Nueva Alianza will be introduced in section 1.2, beginning with their historical development from a plantation to a self-administered community, and emphasizing their unique features as a backdrop for the participants’ local achievements of belonging in interaction. Finally, in section 1.3, I will outline the structure of the rest of this book. ← 4 | 5 →

1.1. Belonging and Language Use in Current Research

Since I started my research for this book some years ago, belonging has turned into a promising concept that continues to attract increasing academic interest. There is an ever-expanding corpus of studies and research dealing with the political circumstances, boundary drawing, as well as spatial and social attachments associated with the concept. For example, the German Anthropological Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde) dedicates its biennial conference in 2017 to “Belonging: Affective, moral and political practices in an interconnected world”.5 Generally, two trends emerge in the literature on belonging. First, studies define belonging as a term that captures place-relatedness, and in this relatedness specifically the “local”, the small scale or the community-level in contrast or in relation to the “global”.6 Second, a wide corpus of research is devoted to the political conditions and making of belonging, the “regimes” (Pfaff-Czarnecka, 2011) governing the in- and exclusion of people in larger social and political entities like nation states, diasporas or specific cultural and social groups.7

A thorough and extensive theoretical examination of the concept of belonging will be undertaken in section 2.6. This is why, at this point, I want to focus on empirically grounded contributions to the field that are predominantly concerned with belonging established through language use. One of the “classics” to consult on this specific relationship is Hausendorf’s (2000) “Zugehörigkeit durch Sprache” (‘Belonging through language’). Belonging in his book is defined as membership to social groups, which is accomplished by means of social categorization (Hausendorf, 2000, 4ff.). In his study, Hausendorf examines a wide range of linguistic means speakers use to index and evaluate social belonging in a large corpus of spoken language (“Ostwestkorpus”, Hausendorf 2000, 155f.). Amongst these, there are also temporal and local indicators that point to specific social categorizations of speakers. Hausendorf pursues a conversation analytical approach to the data and “reconstructs” belonging as dealt with in interactions as a “communicative problem” (Hausendorf, 2000, 99f.). His approach to belonging and its expression through social categorization is a valuable starting point for ← 5 | 6 → a linguistically oriented analysis of belonging. This is why we will encounter his work frequently in this book.

Meinhof & Galasiński (2005) contribute with a compelling study on the “Language of Belonging” on the German-Polish border near Guben/Gubin, and at the former German/German border dividing Bavaria and Thuringia. Even though the authors are interested in the linguistic constructions of identities, they frame the analysis with the “metaphor” of belonging as a concept emphasizing context-sensitivity in linguistic identity constructions (Meinhof & Galasiński, 2005, 15). They highlight the local and situated constructions of ethnicity and other forms of identification, and the context-boundedness of “ethnic, regional or local identities” (Meinhof & Galasiński, 2005, 18). The prevalent categories emerging from an analysis of the corpus, which consists of narratives elicited with the help of old photographs on both sides of the (former) border, are “time, place, social relations, and social encounters” (Meinhof & Galasiński, 2005, 20). The two authors, therefore, not only consider interconnections between temporal, spatial and social categories, which I will also show in this book (c.f. chapter 6 and 7); they also emphasize “mutuality” (Pfaff-Czarnecka, 2011, 202ff.) between members of a community – or in this case two communities on different sides of the border – as crucial for speakers’ conceptualizations of belonging within multiple identifications. This mutuality consists of accounts of (imagined) physical encounters with the “other” across the border. As for the linguistic means speakers use for expressing categories and relations, Meinhof and Galasiński (2005, 65) advocate “a ‘grammar of identity’ of socially available linguistic resources which, in a given context, can be constructive of identity positions”. This includes lexical items (comparable to the lists provided in Wodak et al. 1999), but also an analysis of the discursive resources, such as stories, argumentative patterns or historical conditions that result in certain positionings. The study inspired my methodological considerations on how to trace belonging in spoken data in this book (see chapter 4).

In a recent anthology edited by Cornips & de Rooij (2018a) various contributions relate to belonging as pre-eminently constituted by practices of “linguistic place-making”: “Place-making involves the assigning, through interaction, of social meanings to (physical) space(s), thereby creating places that are perceived as the basis of belonging” (Cornips & de Rooij, 2018b, 7f.). The volume presents findings located mainly in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology focussing on language choice, dialect use and speaker agency. The anthology provides a vital and compelling sociolinguistic and cultural anthropological approach to the concept of belonging. However, in the contributions belonging and the linguistic means constituting it are first and foremost limited to place-relations. ← 6 | 7 →

In my approach, belonging is a concept which is understood as encompassing both categorical features (spatial, social and temporal) indexing a speaker’s belonging to certain categories, and also shared practices within a community, such as the practice of narrating. The latter describes belonging with other people who share this practice (c.f. section 2.7). Even though De Fina (2003) does not speak about belonging, but rather apprehends categorizations and social orientations as strategies of identification, her study offers a fine-grained analytical perspective on narratives and their shared elements in a community of Mexican illegal migrants to the United States. Narratives for her are a favourable locus for identity constructions as they provide different levels of “shared narrative resources”, the “enactment, reflection or negotiation of social relationships” and “expression, discussion and negotiation of membership into communities” (De Fina, 2003, 19). She shows repeated patterns of narrations – for instance pronominal choice, positionings and use of categories – across a group of speakers who share similar migration experiences. Her study suggests an approach where the investigator looks at shared practices within a group of narrators and provides initial ideas of what belonging with a community of practice might look like (c.f. section 7.6).

All of the studies introduced here conceptualize belonging (or identity in the case of De Fina, 2003) as a context-sensitive achievement of speakers. The linguistic means of these achievements are temporal, spatial and social categories and positionings that need to be analyzed considering their embeddedness in local interactions and their respective social and historical contexts. However, to my knowledge, no study exists that investigates both the complex interrelations of categorical belonging in combination with specific practices that are shared among a community and, thus, constitutive for belonging with it. A “thick description” (Geertz, 1973) living up to both dimensions of belonging in its local meaning and relevance can best be pursued with research that is both ethnographically oriented and that draws on different types of data. First, to arrive at possibly emic and context-sensitive “(re-)constructions of what the participants construct at the time” (Wolff, 2004, 48), one must gain at least a basic understanding of the participants’ life-world(s). Second, the analytical juxtaposition of a variety of spoken data which revolves explicitly or implicitly around matters of belonging can solidify locally relevant categories that are pivotal – or at least more important than others – for the speakers’ sense of belonging. My approach centers on an ethnographic description of one small community, and on presenting data from different contexts and different speakers across the community. The aim is to provide a more holistic conception of how belonging is depicted in language use, and how the shared practice of narrating is constitutive for belonging with the community. ← 7 | 8 →

1.2. Empirical Foundations: The Comunidad Nueva Alianza and its Story

In this section, I will introduce the story of the Nueva Alianza in the larger context of peasant struggle and the fight for land in Guatemala, with the aim of understanding the historical context in which the analysis of belonging as category and practice will be embedded. The community is located in the highlands between the Pacific coastal shore and the second largest town of Guatemala, Quetzaltenango. It is very well suited for an analysis of belonging and language use for three reasons: First, the community members share the experience of having gone through significant social transformation – from a patrón-owned large agricultural plantation (finca), to a communally organized enterprise embedded in village-like structures. The shared experience of struggle (lucha) from this transformation, and the necessity of social cohesion and groupness (Brubaker & Cooper, 2000) during these times, serve to enforce collectively shared feelings of belonging and practices of expressing them. A second unique characteristic of the community is that its members do not make use of ethnic categories to express belonging, but rather ground it in references to spatial categories (mainly aquí – ‘here’). This is notable because the rural population in the western highlands is, in general, composed of people self-attributing indigenous ethnicities and emphasizing them as major categories of belonging (c.f. Dow 1981, Narciso et al. 20148). Finally, the members of the Nueva Alianza are open to telling their collective story to a variety of community outsiders. Belonging is made an explicit subject of narrative practice and reaffirms the community’s success story through acknowledgment received from others. ← 8 | 9 →

The story of transformation within the community is embedded in Guatamala’s history of land appropriation and distribution policies and processes (Bulmer-Thomas, 1978; Smith, 1984; McCreery, 1994; Bandeira & Sumpsi, 2011). Coffee producing latifundia were usually managed by ladino9 landowners. The majority of accounts given by my respondents go back as far as three to four generations (some accounts even up to five generations), usually with their great-grandparents ‘coming down’ from the Altiplano ‘highlands’ to the finca Nueva Alianza to find permanent work as a colono.10 Colonos were the resident work force on the fincas, whom the patrones hired to alleviate the lack of peasant seasonal workers. In doing so, they managed to secure a steady workforce on the plantations. They were provided with housing, a secure income for their families, and sometimes with basic supplies as corn or clothes. Most of these families’ arrivals in the finca Nueva Alianza were between the 1940s and 1950s when the finca was still cultivating coffee and saffron. My interviewees do not really know where their ancestors came from. We can only assume that they had indigenous roots, as settlements in the Altiplano were comprised of secluded indigenous peasant villages, relying on self-sufficient or locally traded agricultural products to make ends meet. In contrast to other parts of Guatemala (and Central America for that matter), the peasant communities in the western highlands where the Nueva Alianza is located showed a high degree of resistance to cultural and economic appropriation: ← 9 | 10 →

“Indians in both poorer and richer zones maintained a steadfast stance of preserving cultural if not economic or political autonomy, and the assimilation process which had produced the Ladino culture elsewhere made little progress in the highland” (Smith, 1984, 216)11.

Why the ancestors of the community came ‘down’ to work at the finca is a matter of speculation. Even though the peasant communities in the highlands tried to remain socially and economically autonomous, with insufficient access to fertile land and no income source other than agriculture, internal migration was sometimes inevitable. At the finca they turned into “proletarianized” (Smith, 1984, 213) wage-laborers without land but with the security of regular work and income.

My participants reported that the workers on the finca were unaffected by the civil war (1960–1996) between military and paramilitary groups and guerrilla troops which resulted in massacres of mostly indigenous populations. As the workforce of a ladino-led plantation, they were not involved in peasant and indigenous resistance or suspected to support guerilla forces.

In the 1990s, Guatemala and other coffee producing countries in Latin America were highly affected by the global coffee crisis. This crisis was due to the breakdown of the International Coffee Agreement (ICA) in 1989, which served to ensure higher and stable pricing for coffee. A glut of coffee supply from Vietnam (which was lower in quality but still preferred by the coffee buying big corporations such as Nestlé etc.), along with increased supply from Brazil, also contributed to the disruption of the global coffee market (Petchers & Harris, 2008, 44ff.). The finca Nueva Alianza, now populated with around 40 larger families of colonos and the family of the patrón, experienced the falling coffee prices and started to grow macadamia nuts, a cash crop suitable for the climatic circumstances in the highlands. In their narratives, community members recall that the aggravation of the crisis and mismanagement on behalf of the patró n led to bankruptcy of the plantation. In 1998, after a severe wage cut for the workers, the owner and his close associates on the finca tried to delay the workers wage demands, promising payments in the next couple of weeks. Ultimately, 18 months passed in which the resident peasants did not receive any compensation for their labor in the fields. With growing pressure from the workers and their families, the patrón left the plantation in 2000. To some of the Alianza community members, this was seen as a clandestine, but unplanned ← 10 | 11 → flight in the middle of the night, so that nobody could pursue them. The colono-families started to struggle with making basic ends meet during the last 18 months of the patrón’s management period. Their economic difficulties increased after the patrón left. The families tried to grow food such as corn and bananas on the parcels of land left for use, but starvation was soon a major problem in the community. Except for two families, the former colonos started to migrate to the nearest urban centers of Retalhuleu, Quetzaltenango, Mazatenango, or to other rural settlements in the hopes of finding work. Some migrated soon after the patró n had left, others tried to stay longer. The two families staying in the community were able to receive support from relatives in the cities, who sent food and money up to the highlands. For most of the respondents, the ‘abandonment’ by the patrón and the subsequent forced internal migration was a devastating and traumatic experience.

The network of families, however, stayed intact despite having been dispersed throughout the region. In the hopes of receiving the salary owed to them by the former patrón, they collectively turned to the Workers Union of Quetzaltenango (UTQ), who supported them in initiating a legal battle against the patrón. Over the course of around three years, and counseled by the UTQ, the case was put through several juridical procedures and was decided in favor of the workers in 2002. The patrón, however, could not be held accountable for the debt any longer, as he declared himself privately bankrupt and transferred his possessions to a bank with which he was in debt – among others, the finca itself. The former workers of the Alianza had no one to turn to and no institutional backup for their case. On March 12th 2002, and backed by the UTQ, most of the former colono-families decided to occupy the remains of the finca with the intent of demanding their money. This was not an unusual measure to take in conflicts about land ownership and distribution in Guatemala (Bailliet, 2000, 195f.); however, it was often accompanied by conflict.

The occupants report receiving threats from the patrón’s associates, the patrón’s family members and other supposedly armed groups in the area. In their accounts, narrators often depict the community members as people waiting behind the fence of the finca with nothing but pitchforks and sticks. They lived together in very primitive and harsh conditions around the area of the old patrón’s main house for months. During this time, nobody came to claim the land or expel the occupants. So, in January 2003 the Alianza members turned to the Fondo de Tierras, the ‘land fund’, an autonomous government institution which was established alongside the 1996 peace accords aimed at supporting access to land for indigenous and peasant communities after the atrocities and rural devastation of the civil war (Bandeira and Sumpsi 2011, 145, Alonso-Fradejas 2012, 513f.). ← 11 | 12 → The Fondo de Tierras supported the former workers of the Nueva Alianza in negotiations with a Panama-based investor, who at that time held the property rights to the finca. After another two years of negotiation, the families of the Alianza, now organized as a “Workers Union of Nueva Alianza”, were able to buy the finca from the investor for 1.500.000 Quetzales (approximately 180.000 US Dollars). An amount of 500.000 Quetzales was covered by the Fondo de Tierras. 40 heads of families from the community took a loan from Banrural for the rest of the sum. Banrural supports rural development by giving favorable conditions to peasant beneficiaries with relatively low interest rates. In December 2004, the finca Nueva Alianza was officially declared the property of the “Workers Union of Nueva Alianza”, and the participants reported unbridled joy and had a fiesta that lasted for days. During the year of bank negotiations with the Fondo de Tierras, the people started to organize the community into village-like structures, renovated the deserted houses and started to clean the forest and land. The intention to work the farmland communally and make use of the products was established before the members of this new community officially owned the land. After receiving the official title to the lands and facilities in the finca, the community evaluated their potential on the agricultural market given their production of coffee beans and macadamia nuts. They started to develop ideas for other sources of income, as a single focus on agriculture was not a promising solution for creating the revenue needed to sustain the community and pay back the bank loan. With the help of foreign volunteers from the U.S. and Europe, they renovated the old house of the patrón and started an eco-hotel for visitors; this was in connection with a larger eco-tourism project including guided tours through the community. From the natural water sources in the surrounding forest, a potable water bottling plant was set up. Other projects followed (see section 5.1.3).

To make coffee and macadamia production more distinctive and to emphasize “‘local’ narratives of coffee-growing communities and their farming practices” (Goodman, 2008, 9), the community decided to grow without chemicals and applied for labels of ecological and fair production. They finally received the fair trade label after a long process of evaluation in 2009. Also, after the finca was officially owned by the community members, families of the former colonos, who had not participated in the occupation of the finca, were asked to come back and contribute to the projects. During the times of the patrón the finca had a school only up to the sixth grade, with most of the students not reaching that level because their labor was required in the fields. A municipality-supported school with education up to the 8th grade (basico cycle) was set up shortly after ← 12 | 13 → the entitlement. The church from former times was reestablished, and in 2006, the former colono population of approximately 350 people was again present.

Within the discursive framework of land appropriation and struggle for peasant rights, the story of the Nueva Alianza was considered not only an example of success in the region, but also internationally.12 They have received much recognition in the print media and beyond, and have been cited as a positive example for Guatemalan rural communities finding ways out of economic and social poverty. The story is told and retold by the community members in various circumstances: to other Guatemalan organizations, to representatives of other peasant and indigenous communities, and to visitors from all over the world. The community members want to make their story heard and construe local and social belonging in the context of the shared experiences of struggle (lucha), suffering (sufrimiento) and overcoming (salir adelante). The salient grounding of belonging in spatial terms, in ‘being from here’ might be analyzed in terms of the community’s story of becoming. The ancestors of the current community population came from different villages, maybe with differing indigenous practices. These practices and ethnic categories that determined their belonging in the past might have diminished or vanished in their identificatory potential within the new community of finca colonos. Additionally, the colonos found themselves in a work environment adapted to “Ladino culture” (Smith, 1984, 216) by the patrón and his associates. This would also explain the community members’s accounts of ‘not knowing’ where they are from, but ‘from here’ (see chapter 6 and 7). In the interactions and narratives of the community members, we find rich sources for constructions of belonging. How belonging is done by interlocutors and how this doing plays out in different interactional contexts will be the focus of this book.

1.3. Outline of the Book

This book is divided into three main parts: a theoretical approach to belonging, a methodological approach to belonging, and finally, an analytical approach to belonging in interaction. In the next chapter (2), I begin with a discussion of the concept of identity, and argue that belonging is necessary as a theoretical concept emphasizing locality, groupness and certain regimes of in- and exclusion. In my interim theoretical conclusion (section 2.7), I will define belonging as encompassing spatial, social and temporal categories, positionings and shared practices. ← 13 | 14 →

In chapter 3, the relationship between belonging and language use is explored, focusing specifically on language as practice in which belonging can be accomplished in interaction (section 3.2). This links to a theoretical discussion of the community of practice concept in which specific practices, for example narrating the community story, are connected to a specific group of people. Having conceptualized belonging grounded in categories, positions and practices done by means of language use, chapter 4 will then present the methodological approach to belonging in spoken data. Membership categorization and conversation analysis, positioning and narrative as practice are elucidated as productive tools in the analysis of belonging, specifically in the data collected in the community.

To account for the process of data collection and the different forms of data that will be analyzed, chapter 5 is dedicated to a detailed description of the field and my position as a researcher within this field. After a description of the different forms of spoken data in the corpus, the chapter concludes with a note on data transcription and selection.

The first analytical part of the book (chapter 6) explores an interaction of community women with an outsider, in which belonging is explicitly negotiated. The relevance of locality expressed by the use of the local adverb aquí ‘here’, and the negotiation between ethnic and local categories of belonging becomes evident in these sequentially and consecutively analyzed extracts of interaction. Chapter 7 provides an extensive display and narrative-as-practice-oriented analysis of the stories told by the participants about the community’s transformation. After looking more closely at different types of stories and specific structures, categories and positions the speakers use in these types, shared elements of nearly all narratives of the community will be outlined at the end of the chapter. An excursus concludes the analysis section of the book. In the first excursus 8.1, I will further examine the use of the local adverb aquí in all of the interviews. It shows that the meaning of aquí ‘here’ in the context of interaction with outsiders goes beyond spatial reference, since it emphasizes the community’s belonging as spatial “rootedness” in the locality of the Alianza. In excursus II, the regimes of belonging are described by also drawing on other forms of interaction. Here, I illustrate other practices of the community whose non-compliance can be sanctioned by exclusion from the social group.

In chapter 9, I summarize and consolidate the results from the analysis and link them to the theoretical deliberations and current empirical findings on belonging. Chapter 10 presents general conclusions regarding my initial research question, and a discussion of the contributions as well as the limits of the present study.


1 All names except the name of the community leader have been changed.

2 The order of the categorical terms goes back to Cassirer’s (1923, 166–208) philosophical approach to language in which space is immediate in its “translation” of perception into words and thus primordial to time and the social as the linguistic differentiation between I and you/he/she etc. For the categories of belonging that are relevant to this particular community I will order them according to the local relevance participants imbue them with: spatial, social and temporal categories.

3 They are tackled for example by large-scale projects on national discourses in Reisigl & Wodak (2001), Krzyżanowski & Wodak (2009) or Wodak (2016).

4 The only exception is community leader Javier who explicitly wished for his name to appear.

5 As presented on the DGV web page: https://en.dgv-net.de/gaa-conference-2017 (last accessed 04.09.2017).

6 For example in the contributions to Lovell (1998b), in Croucher (2004), Savage, Bagnall and Longhurst (2005), Garbutt (2011), Inglis and Donnelly (2012) and the contributions to Toffin & Pfaff-Czarnecka (2014).

7 The recently published studies of Gairola (2016), Matveeva (2017) and Nititham (2017) represent this research direction.

8 The statistics for the different departments in Guatemala show a high percentage of self-identification as indígena, in Quetzatenango 51.7%, in the neighboring northern and central highland departments Totonicapán the indigenous population adds up to 97%, in Sololá to 96.5%. Unfortunately, the available statistical data is not differentiated into rural and urban areas, nor into highlands and lowlands. The Quetzaltenango department covers an area from the highlands down to the lowlands, and almost into the coastal areas, where fewer indigenous people live (a comparison is the lowland and coastal department of Retalhuleu, with a significantly lower indigenous population of 15.4%). The capital of the department has the same name, and is the second-largest city in Guatemala. It can be concluded from the statistical data and my observations in the area that, in the rural highland regions, ethnic identifications such as indigenous or mestizo usually play a pivotal role in defining local belonging, which makes the Alianza case exceptional.

9 The term refers to Guatemalan population of Spanish (colonial) heritage. The main definition is not of a biological nature, however: “Ladinos tend to identify with whites, in fact they are generally mestizo. It is the social and cultural factors which are taken into account to distinguish one population from the other” (Stavenhagen, 1965, 54). Ladino is usually defined as an ethnic category separate from indigenous categories and as representing the hegemonic culture still related to colonialism in Guatemala (del Valle Escalante, 2008, 34). The discursive dichotomization between indígena and ladino is thoroughly analyzed in Matthew (2006).

10 The actual term colono is only used once within the whole corpus of interviews by 33-year-old female Camila. She applied the term to the community group within the antes ‘before’ temporal category of the finca developments, and contrasts it with being a proprietario ahora ‘owner now’. The other participants prefer to speak of trabajadores ‘workers’ when they speak about people in relation with the patrón (or general relations between ‘workers’ and ‘patronos’) during past times of the finca as plantation. In this short historic review, I will nevertheless stick to the term colono, because it better depicts relations of responsibility, rights and duties between them and a patrón as the owner of a plantation. These relations also apply to the past of the specific finca Nueva Alianza.

11 Similar to the findings of Smith (1984), Nash (1958) shows in his anthropological study on the community of Cantel, not far from the location of the Nueva Alianza, how a community accommodates to new forms of industrialized wage labour “without the drastic chain of social, cultural and psychological consequences” (Nash, 1958, 112) that can come along with new economic forms of living.

12 In 2006, the community won the “Rural Productivity Award for Guatemala” from the World Bank, which entails an award of approximately 10.000 US-dollars for collective investments.