Language and Belonging
Local Categories and Practices in a Guatemalan Highland Community
Table Of Content
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- List of Tables
- List of Figures
- Transcription Convention
- 1. Introduction
- 1.1. Belonging and Language Use in Current Research
- 1.2. Empirical Foundations: The Comunidad Nueva Alianza and its Story.
- 1.3. Outline of the Book
- 2. Belonging and Identification
- 2.1. Making Sense of Ourselves and Others
- 2.2. Processes of Identification
- 2.3. Personal and Social Identification
- 2.4. Social Identification and Groups
- 2.5. From Social Positioning to Belonging
- 2.6. Concepts of Belonging
- 2.6.1. Spatial Belonging
- 2.6.2. Social Belonging
- 22.214.171.124 Intersected Belonging: Social Location and Social Positionality
- 126.96.36.199 Regimes of Social Belonging
- 2.6.3. Temporal Belonging
- 2.7. Conclusion: Conceptualization of Belonging
- 3. Doing Belonging
- 3.1. Language and Belonging
- 3.2. The Practice Approach in Contemporary Linguistics and Social Sciences
- 3.3. Doing Belonging
- 3.4. Communities of Practice
- 3.5. Interim Conclusion
- 4. Tracing Belonging in Spoken Data
- 4.1. Membership Categorization and Conversation Analysis
- 4.2. Positioning
- 4.3. Narrative as Practice
- 4.3.1. Narrative and Belonging
- 4.3.2. Positioning in Narrative
- 4.4. Interim Conclusion – What to Do with the Data?
- 5. Data Collection and Processing
- 5.1. The Field
- 5.1.1. Population
- 5.1.2. Location and Structure
- 5.1.3. Organization and Projects
- 5.2. Accessing the Field
- 5.3. The Researcher as an Outsider Participant
- 5.4. The Corpus
- 5.4.1. Narrative Accounts from Semi-structured Interviews
- 5.4.2. Narratives for Visitors
- 5.4.3. Interactions with Outsiders
- 5.4.4. Community Interactions
- 5.4.5. Fieldnotes
- 5.5. Data Transcription and Selection
- 6. Belonging as a Local and Interactional Problem
- 6.1. The Setting
- 6.2. Problematizing the Term Étnico
- 6.3. Adding Language as a Relevant Category
- 6.4. Processing the Étnico Question
- 6.5. Processing the Language Question
- 6.6. Clashing Category Systems
- 6.7. Interactional Positions
- 6.8. Interim Conclusion: Belonging as a Local and Interactional Problem
- 7. Narrating as a Local Practice of Belonging
- 7.1. The Narrative Corpus
- 7.2. Types of Narrations and Types of Narrators
- 7.3. Stories by Practiced Narrators
- 7.3.1. Positioning as Narrative Experts
- 188.8.131.52 Navigating Interactional Context and Story Structure
- 184.108.40.206 Displaying Expert Knowledge: Chronology and Detail
- 7.3.2. Positioning Own and Other Voices
- 220.127.116.11 Speaking on Behalf of the Community
- 18.104.22.168 Different Voices
- 7.3.3. Interim Conclusion: Stories by Practiced Narrators
- 7.4. Spontaneous Narratives
- 7.4.1. Positioning the Narrated Self
- 7.4.2. Interim Conclusion: Spontaneous Narratives
- 7.5. Re-Narrated Stories
- 7.5.1. ‘It says’ – The Story as Community Knowledge
- 7.5.2. ‘There is’ – Generalization in Re-Narration
- 7.5.3. ‘We were workers’ – We-voices in Re-Narrations
- 7.5.4. Interim Conclusion: Re-Narrated Stories
- 7.6. One Story – Thirty Versions – Shared Core Elements
- 7.7. Interim Conclusion: Narrating as a Local Practice of Belonging
- 8. Excursus
- 8.1. Excursus I: Grounding Belonging in the Local Adverb aquí
- 8.2. Excursus II: Regimes of Belonging
- 9. Summary and Discussion
- 10. Conclusion and Prospects
- A. Speaker Table
- B. Interview Questionnaire
- Series index
1 Sample of Narrative Accounts from Interviews
2 Types of Narratives and Speakers
3 Narrative Classification Based on Use of Pronouns and Verb Forms
4 Occurrences of aquí in the Interview Corpus
5 Occurrences of acá in the Interview Corpus
6 Speakers in the Corpus
1 Simple Map of the Nueva Alianza
2 Relations of the Community and the Company
3 Speaker and Topic Orientation in Extract 1
4 Category System of the Trainer for the “Ethnic Group”
5 Speaker and Topic Orientation in Extract 2
6 Speaker and Topic Orientation in Extract 3
7 Speaker and Topic Orientation in Extract 5
8 Narrative Structure JavierI
9 Narrative Structure JavierJV
10 Narrative Structure CarlosI
11 Narrative Structure CarlosYG
12 Narrative Structure Maria
This book is an inquiry into the concept of belonging and its relation to language use. The empirical focus lies on a Guatemalan rural community and how its members achieve belonging in interaction. The concept of belonging is defined first as the spatial, social and temporal categories that speakers use to attribute themselves and others to. Second, belonging is conceptualized as encompassing specific practices that are distinctive to a community and that index belonging with it. These practices are shared by group members, and together with the categorical attributions often determine who can belong and who cannot. The analysis is based on data collected in 2009 and 2011 during four months of ethnographic research. The corpus combines two broad types of spoken data: first, narratives on the community’s transformation in semi-structured interviews and for visiting tourists; and second, other community interactions with visiting outsiders and amongst group members. The analysis of these interactions follows the methodological considerations developed in membership categorization, ethnographically informed conversation analysis and positioning theory. The findings suggest that “place” is pivotal in grounding belonging, emphasizing collectivity and tracing a temporal trajectory that connects group members’ “origin” to that place. The analysis of the narrative corpus reveals shared elements in the individual narrations of the community story. Narrating the community’s story in this way points to the participants’ shared experiences and knowledge, and thereby consolidates belonging with the community through engaging in this language-based practice. This book, thus, offers a new theoretical approach to the concept of belonging and its relation to language use. Furthermore, it offers a holistic analysis of the community’s belonging as it is achieved in interactions with different outsiders.
Die Arbeit befasst sich empirisch und theoretisch mit dem Konzept der Zugehörigkeit und seiner Verankerung im Sprachgebrauch. Die theoretischen Überlegungen stützen sich auf sprachliche Daten aus einer guatemaltekischen ländlichen Gemeinschaft, in denen Zugehörigkeiten hergestellt und verhandelt werden. Zugehörigkeit wird hier zum einen als sprachlich hervorgebrachte räumliche, soziale und zeitliche Kategorien, mit denen die Sprecher*innen Selbst- und Fremdzuordnungen vornehmen definiert. Zum anderen wird Zugehörigkeit über die Ausübung bestimmter geteilter Praktiken gefasst, die für Gemeinschaften spezifisch sind. Durch die Teilhabe an gemeinsamen Praktiken und durch sprachliche Kategorisierungen können Sprecher*innen ausdrücken, wer dazugehört und wer nicht. Die Arbeit liefert damit einen Beitrag zu einer überindividuellen Analyse von Zugehörigkeiten im Kontext des Sprachgebrauchs indem sie auch kollektiv orientierte Zusammengehörigkeit in den Blick nimmt.
Die Analyse basiert auf einem sprachlichen Korpus, der 2009 und 2011 in viermonatiger ethnographischer Feldforschung in einer ländlichen comunidad in Guatemala gesammelt wurde. Der Gemeinschaft gelang Anfang der 2000er Jahre eine Transformation, von einer Kaffee- und Macadamiaplantage in Großgrundbesitz zu einem selbstverwalteten und demokratisch organisierten Agrarbetrieb mit dörflichen Strukturen. Das Korpus besteht aus zwei Datentypen: zum einen aus Narrativen über den Wandel in der Gemeinschaft, die für Besucher und in semi-strukturierten Interviews erzählt werden. Zum anderen umfasst das Korpus Interaktionen der Gemeinschaftsmitglieder unter sich und mit Besuchern von außerhalb. Diese sprachlichen Daten werden mittels der membership categorization analysis (MCA), einer ethnographisch informierten Konversationsanalyse und einer Positionierungsanalyse ausgewertet. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass ein Bezug zur Räumlichkeit als zentrale Zugehörigkeitsdimension von den Sprecher*innen relevant gesetzt wird. Dies ist insbesondere in der vorwiegend durch ethnische Zugehörigkeiten geprägten ländlichen Region Guatemalas bemerkenswert. Die Verbindung zum Raum bestimmt auch die soziale Zugehörigkeit. Erst eine über eine bestimmte Zeit aufgebaute Beziehung zu dem Raum, macht auch die Zugehörigkeit zur Gruppe möglich. Geteilte sprachliche Praktiken zeigen sich in meinem Korpus vor allem in den Narrativen der Bewohner*innen über die Zeit der Transformation. Die Anordnung und Verwendung bestimmter erzählerischer Elemente sowie gleiche oder ähnliche ← xxi | xxii → Kategorisierungen und Positionierungen in jedem der Narrative verweisen auf geteiltes Wissen und geteilte Erfahrungen der Sprecher*innen. So markiert das Erzählen der Geschichte die Zusammengehörigkeit mit einer spezifischen community of practice. Die Arbeit bietet eine umfassende theoretische Fundierung des Konzepts der Zugehörigkeit und Zusammengehörigkeit, die grundlegend durch deren sprachliche und interaktive Herstellung in der Empirie gestützt ist.
Este livro é uma investigação sobre o conceito de pertencimento e sua relação com o uso da linguagem. A pesquisa empírica centra-se na realização interacional de pertencimento em uma comunidade rural guatemalteca. O conceito de pertencimento é definido, em primeiro lugar, como as categorias espaciais, sociais e temporais que os falantes usam para atribuir a si mesmos e a outros (“belonging to”). Em segundo lugar, o pertencimento é considerado como práticas específicas que são distintivas para uma comunidade e que indicam pertencer à mesma comunidade (“belonging with”). Essas práticas são compartilhadas em todo o grupo e, juntamente com as atribuições categóricas, muitas vezes determinam quem pode pertencer a ele e quem não pode. O corpus foi coletado entre 2009 e 2011 em quatro meses de pesquisa etnográfica. Ele combina narrativas sobre a transformação da comunidade coletadas em entrevistas semi-estruturadas, em narrativas para turistas, bem como interações entre seus próprios membros. A análise das interações baseia-se nas premissas da categorização de pertencimento (MCA), análise da conversa etnograficamente informada (“ethnographically informed conversation analysis”) e análise do posicionamento discursivo. Os resultados mostram uma relevância crucial da categoria de “lugar” em relação com a “origem”, a importância de coletividade e a conexão entre o local e o grupo numa trajetória ao longo do tempo nas enunciações dos participantes. A análise das narrações mostra elementos compartilhados nos relatos individuais sobre a história da comunidade. A relevância das categorias de outras interações é repetida nesses relatos. Narrá-los desta forma aponta para experiências compartilhadas o conhecimento dos participantes e, assim, para uma consolidação do pertencimento à comunidade (“belonging with”) através do envolvimento nesta prática baseada em linguagem. Este livro, portanto, oferece uma nova abordagem teórica sobre o conceito de pertencimento e sua relação com a linguagem. Além disso, segue um viés analítico holístico sobre o pertencimento de uma comunidade, estabelecido em várias interações com diferentes interlocutores não pertencentes à comunidade.
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 ) 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 →
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 →
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.
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.
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.
Belonging is a multi-relational concept encompassing more than the often bi-lateral categorizations involved in processes of identification. Roughly defined, belonging as it is used here refers to people’s processes of making sense of themselves as part of a group in terms of social, spatial and temporal dimensions (see 2.6), and as sharing specific practices with that group. The concept of belonging emerged from discussions about shortcomings or deadlocks surrounding the terms identity and identification. However, in its present conceptualizations, it still intersects with these concepts. Hence, I will start this chapter with an approach to the term identity and an outline of the turn from identity to identification; later I discuss the relationship between identification and the concept of belonging. Identification covers questions of “who am I” and “who are we” in processual terms of active and intersubjectively achieved boundary drawing. It is, even in its theoretical and analytical differentiation into personal and social identification, always a process involving (imagined) others. It is per definitionem a social process. In the following sections (2.1, 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4), we will look at the relationship between an individual’s social identification and groups, and some critiques between the connection of the self with the social. Finally, a more recent and empirical approach to identity and identification as social positioning (Bucholtz & Hall, 2005) is introduced in section 2.5. By understanding identification as emerging, as “happening” at different levels in interactive encounters – as relational and as always partial – it provides a useful link to the understanding of belonging that is introduced in the same section.
In the beginning of the second part of this chapter (2.6), the growing salience of the term belonging in scholarly accounts in different fields (such as anthropology, human geography, sociology, psychology and linguistics) is reviewed. In this vein, belonging is presented according to its three major dimensions as “place belonging” (2.6.1), “social belonging” (2.6.2) and “temporal belonging” (2.6.3). After shedding light on the various aspects the term is associated with, I will conclude by delineating my understanding of the concept in the specific context of this book’s empirical analysis: as a speaker’s indexing (Silverstein, 1976) of social attachment to groups, spatial attachment to place and of construing possible temporal relations between the two. Second, belonging can be accomplished by the very use of these relations in linguistic expressions. Sharing “ways of speaking” (Hymes, 1989) indexes a speaker’s belonging to a community of language practice, as will be developed in section 3.2. It is important to note that the properties ← 15 | 16 → of the concept of belonging as used here emerged from an in-depth interrogation of the data, and from an analytical attempt to conceptually grasp what people say and how they speak about “who they are” and “where they belong”.
Over the course of the last decades, many scholars have observed the proliferation, persistence and resilience of the concept of identity in scholarly endeavors. The term outlived discussion from post-structuralist and post-modern perspectives, where it was highly criticized in its original definition of being “stable” and based on “sameness”, and as being too essentialist (among others by Hall 1996, Brubaker & Cooper 2000, Anthias 2002). On the other hand, increased literature on identities as being constructed, fragmented, uncertain and multiple has also been seen as being too “weak”, “saying too little” or limiting the focus on individuals’ perceptions of personal and social self (Brubaker & Cooper 2000, 1; Anthias 2002). Regardless, it is hard to imagine sociological, political or linguistic research focusing on how people perceive and make sense of themselves and others in the social world without reference to – or variations of – the term identity (not only, but also because of its actual presence in public discourses and common language use; Fearon 1999, Jenkins 2008, 14). Initially, the term was used in psychology to define the sameness of an individual’s self-perception. Erikson (1959) depicts this sameness as challenged by different crises throughout the course of a person’s life, and in ideal cases how they deal with these crises. In his stage model, he describes these challenges, and how the individual incorporates and connects experiences from the different crises into her ego identity (or personal identity). Even though this model focuses on ego identity defined as an inherently stable and coherent version of the self, the crises Erikson delineates are socially triggered. He focuses on the strategies of an individual to deal with certain obstacles in her psychological development. The crises are related to respective significant people during the course of one’s life. The crisis-work of a person is to see herself from the perspective of these others. Hence, the individual’s self-reference can only work if the individual ‘steps out’ of the self and changes her perspective. Self-reference only functions from a self-reflexive point of view. The ability of the individual to ‘step out’ and see herself with the eyes of the other is described by Mead (1934) as influenced by the social relations in which she is embedded. The self “arises in the process of social experience and activity, that is, it develops in the given individual as a result of his relations to that process as a whole and to other individuals within that process” (Mead, 1934, 135). The incorporated other is an aggregate of viewpoints within the social group in which ← 16 | 17 → the individual is socialized as a member.13 These viewpoints are condensed into collective attitudes represented by the “generalized other”14. Mead explains that subjectivity is always and necessarily tied to intersubjectivity. This relationship is reflected in his conceptualization of the self as being, on the one hand, represented by an I as its “individual” side. On the other hand, the self consists of a me involving the internalized norms and expectations of the “generalized other” and hence, representing the “social” side of the self. Krappmann (1971) also follows an interactionist approach looking at the structures which make identity “possible” in interaction, emphasizing the “building” of identity in intersubjective relations, and the “negotiation” of the same with other interlocutors. Identity, then, is built upon anticipated expectations of others towards the individual, and the individual’s reaction to that expectation (ibid.: 39). The interactive negotiation of identity is a dual process of offer, approval or dismissal, and possible adjustments of self and other. Three aspects can be derived from these reflections on identity. Firstly, a person’s sense of self or identity is grounded in interaction with others, especially in verbal communication. Hence, it is constantly negotiated, reaffirmed and adjusted. Second, a person’s sense of self concerns two intertwined realms: Being construed by ongoing processes of identification, it is both personal and social. Third, if the self is constructed by the interplay of the me and others, the perception of the (social) self cannot exist by itself, but rather needs to be acknowledged and confirmed by others.
The aspects above point to a critique on the concept of identity in its original semantic sense as describing (a person’s) sameness or features she might “possess”. When identity is defined as something which is intersubjectively achieved in interaction, it should rather be viewed as a process: “It is a process – identification – not a ‘thing’. It is not something that one can have, or not; it is something that ← 17 | 18 → one does” (Jenkins, 2008, 5, emphases in the original). This processual perspective on identity emphasizes the subject’s agency in the sense-making of herself and others, and her engagement in “discursive work, the binding and marking of symbolic boundaries, the production of ‘frontier-effects’” (Hall, 1996, 3). Furthermore, this process of “knowing who we are” and “knowing who others are” (Jenkins, 2008, 5) is not unilateral (as an emphasis on subjectivity might suggest), but is in fact bilateral. Identification involves the individual’s positioning within social structures. This position, however, can be challenged, validated or rejected by others, as already mentioned above. Alternatively, a position the individual does not necessarily identify herself with can be assigned to her externally. A specific case of external assignment will be discussed in chapter 6. Here, the label “indigenous” is assigned to individuals who frame their belonging in spatial terms and not within ethnic categories. The social validity and coercive function of these categorizations, as we also see in the example mentioned, is often related to positions of power and authority. Identity, then, can only be understood as a “depiction” or “snap-shot” of a never-ending process – a reification of past, present and future negotiations, or a “product” of identification processes which are never a finished or a tangible “thing”. Hence, we have to differentiate the analytical view on identity from the understanding selves and groups might have of themselves as coherent and continuous.15
Theoretically, and as Mead’s distinction of I and me suggests, the self is often divided into the dimensions of personal and social identification processes (or into the “results” of these processes as personal and social identity). This might cause some confusion, as it implies that these realms, though interrelated, still represent different “sources” for the self or occupy different positions in processes of differentiation. The attempts to define personal identity (still not framed within the processual term of identification) are numerous. They vary from psychological accounts as we have seen in Erikson’s model of the self’s continuous sameness in a changing environment (Craib, 1998), to “psychodynamic dimension(s)” of the unconscious and emotions as parts of the self (Vogler, 2000, 20f.). Other authors such as Fearon (1999, 25) see personal identity as a hierarchically organized “set of attributes, beliefs, desires, or principles of action that a person thinks distinguish her in socially relevant ways”, which is associated positively with a ← 18 | 19 → person’s self-esteem.16 Goffman (1991 ), in turn, conceptualizes personal identity not as hierarchically, but rather chronologically organized experiences that are managed and developed by individuals into something like a biography or a narrative of self.17 However identity is defined, it is commonly agreed upon that personal identity, even though it might be conceptualized as an inward process or “interior subjectivity” (Jenkins, 2008, 51), is never detached but always related to or established by the social. Knowledge about what is considered a “positive” feature of a person, or what may differentiate an individual from others, can only be gained in interaction, during intersubjective relations. Jenkins (2008, 38) claims that any “kind” of identity (personal or social) is produced in interaction and follows the same kinds of processes. Both rely on processes of similarity and sameness. Hence, he suggests that a division of identification processes into personal and social is theoretically and methodologically not at all necessary or fruitful.18 Accordingly, a distinction of identification into personal and social processes will not be relevant in this book, as belonging points to its social dimension in collective identification processes. Neither would a distinction into the two realms be analytically beneficial. What we can observe is how individuals position themselves in (verbal) interactions, how they categorize and evaluate groups, places and times, and how they relate them to each other. A “narrative of self” or resources of self-esteem are always already related to others, and are therefore social.
Our focus is on constructions and negotiations of belonging, which is mainly concerned with the social identification of individuals. An often cited definition of social identity is that by Tajfel (1974, 69). He suggests that it is the individual’s categorization of herself and others that matters: ← 19 | 20 →
“we shall understand social identity as that part of an individual’s self-concept which derives from his knowledge of his membership of a social group (or groups) together with the emotional significance attached to that membership.”
However, the compositions of the groups and the relations an individual might have with them can vary. Brewer & Gardner (1996, 84) divide the social self into “public” and “collective” facets of the self. Whereas the public self maintains relations with small groups in real face-to-face interactions (e.g. family, peers, colleagues), the collective self “reflects internalizations of the norms and characteristics of important reference groups and consists of cognitions about the self that are consistent with that group identification” (ibid.). Here, we could imagine a membership affiliation to an ethnic or national group. What Brewer and Gardner call public and collective selves can also be seen conceptually as “roles” and “types” – as subcategories of social identities (Fearon, 1999, 16f.). Role identities apply to “some set of actions, behaviors, routines, or functions in particular situations” (ibid.: 17), and hence are identities adopted in specific kinds of interactions where different roles of the individual are most relevant and foregrounded, e.g. a mother, a farmer, a rebel etc. Type identities focus on shared aspects of collectivities (like gender, nationality, origin) and are interpreted by Fearon as something more “adhesive” to the individual. These concepts still point to identity as something that people can “take” or “activate” in specific settings, and are not grounded in the notion of its construction in interaction at a certain point in time. An interactionist perspective (as outlined by Goffman 1959, Krappmann 1971; Bucholtz & Hall 2004, 2005) looks rather at the formation and the possibilities of certain roles and types achieved in discourse.
Even though social identity might be divided into subcategories, the concepts of social identity and collective identity (and identification) are sometimes used arbitrarily or as exchangeable concepts when it comes to individuals’ relations to groups. I think, however, that a thorough conceptual differentiation is necessary. Social identity, as we have seen in the definition from Tajfel (1974), emphasizes the individual’s perspective of establishing and maintaining links to manifold social groups – of categorizing the social world. Collective identity can be understood as depicting social identifications that overlap. It describes what can happen if different individuals identify with the “same” kind of people (like a community, a sport’s group, or a nation), and how people negotiate, guard, or attach a shared definition of the group and its properties. This is why collective ← 20 | 21 → identities are of crucial concern in inquiries about collective action.19 Critiques of identity as being static and reifying have also been formulated for the conceptualization of social and collective identity. As we can see in Tajfel’s definition, groups are perceived as something preceding any individuals’ association with them, and the individuals would just have to create the links to these entities. Brubaker (2002) counters this position well, positing that groups do not exist in principle, but are rather created through common sense, journalism, and academia by essentializing “groupism”.20 The only “thing” that exists, according to him, a person’s feeling of being part of one or more groups. He is, then, instead interested in the social and political processes that can enhance or mitigate groupness. Even though groups are seen from a social constructivist angle, they are, nevertheless, “real” in their social significance (Brubaker, 2002, 168). Groups are more than the “arithmetical aggregates” of their members (Jenkins, 2008, 10), they “are imagined, but not imaginary” (ibid.: 11). People engage with them, and groups do not necessarily unravel when some members do not identify with them any more (especially when they reach the size and complexity of organizations). Callon & Latour (2006, 77) use the term “translation” to describe the process whereby individuals move from their own social identities, and hence from different micro agents, toward collectives as macro agents: “immer wenn ein Akteur von ≫uns≪ spricht, übersetzt er oder sie andere Akteure in einen einzigen Willen, dessen Geist und Sprecher/-in er oder sie wird”21. In other words, “groups” exist in so far as individuals create them by speaking. However, when individuals speak on behalf of a group, they refer to something superseding their own imagination. Groups, being more than the sum of their parts, rely on ongoing relations between their members; these relations are grounded in practices which are habitualized within a specific community and a material world inhabited by a group (ibid.: 83). Individuals negotiate terms of access to ← 21 | 22 → bounded collectives, they negotiate the attributes a collective might share, and they negotiate their own roles and the membership to different groups in interaction. Negotiation implies that, depending on the context of interaction, different aspects of identification can either be focused on or omitted, affirmed or rejected, and they can be expressed explicitly or implicitly.
Incorporating identity as both categorical and relational processes of identification, and pointing at the multiple levels of identity formation, Bucholtz & Hall (2005) propose an empirically oriented framework. They define identity as “the social positioning of self and other” (ibid.: 586). This positioning is interactively achieved. Driven by findings from empirical analysis, Bucholtz and Hall (2005) propose several ontological implications of the identity concept. First, identity is seen as emerging during interactions which has already been discussed above (ibid.: 588). Second, identity in interaction emerges on various and interlinked levels of identification. While it includes “macro-level demographic categories”, it also emphasizes “local, ethnographically specific cultural positions”, and attached to the (verbal) interaction itself, “temporary and interactionally specific stances and participant roles” (ibid.: 592). This broadens the view on social identity, which is usually taken as relating to macro categories. However, in the above discussion, these social roles seemed to present a primordial asset of an individual (mother, farmer, occupant), whereas here the position would depend on its negotiation, foregrounding, or mitigation in the course of an interaction. Third, identity is indexed with linguistic means, for example “referential identity categories” (ibid.: 594). Fourth, identity is always relational not only in terms of adequation and distinction, but also in terms of authentication and denaturalization, authorization and illegitimization. Adequation and distinction refer to speakers’ emphasis or downplay of similarities or differences between individuals or groups depending on the interactive context (ibid.: 595). Who has the right to speak – and from which position – is regulated by processes of authentication and denaturalization as a “social process played out in discourse” (ibid.: 601). Whether or not identities (on each level) are successfully achieved and established in interaction is negotiated during processes of authorization or illegitimization.
With these different relational processes, Bucholtz and Hall try to encompass both the micro (observable interactive processes) and the macro (larger social discourses or ideological processes) level of identity negotiation. These points allude to the partialness principle, which is the last one in their sociocultural linguistic approach to identity: “Because identity is inherently relational, it will always be ← 22 | 23 → partial, produced through contextually situated and ideologically informed configurations of self and other” (ibid.: 605). They try to tackle the structure-agency discussion22 by conceiving of language use as agency in which structure can be indexed and jointly negotiated by the speakers and their interlocutors.
Identity, when viewed as processes of identification in terms of positioning, is based on the individuals’ doing of identities. This doing encompasses the different levels of interaction in which identification can be achieved, along with the involvement of others in these processes as co-construction or de-construction of different positions the speaker takes. It also emphasizes social identification as not only categorical but also relational at a “point of intersection” of different positions available to a speaker within a specific context of interaction. The model of Bucholtz & Hall (2005, 2004) shows that more recent concepts of identity and identification have answered to the critique of sameness, continuity and stability. The apparent conceptual shortcomings have been addressed with thinking in terms of social positioning and by grounding it in different levels of interaction. Nevertheless, there are three considerations that have led to the introduction of belonging as an alternative concept for people’s notions of who they and others are in this book. First, and on a less “existential” scale, if one chooses to use the term identity or look at identification processes, one has to be aware of the conceptual “baggage” that comes with it:
“For, however many ‘multi’ or ‘layered’ prefixes we use, it remains the case that what is retained must have some singular meaning in and of itself, otherwise the term ‘identity’ would be a rhetorical flourish more than anything else” (Anthias, 2002, 495).
Surely, an outright dismissal of the term, as some have called for (e.g. Brubaker & Cooper 2000, Anthias 2002, Pfaff-Czarnecka 2011), is jumping the gun on the debate. However, using it demands a proper positioning within the array of academic literature devoted to the term, and requires a definition of what is actually meant theoretically and methodologically when talking about identity. The second, and empirically grounded consideration, points to the categorical limits of identification. In most cases, identification processes refer to social categorization into groups, and to social relations of speakers in terms of occupied (interactional or macro-level) positions. While “the social” certainly is a ← 23 | 24 → hallmark of an individual’s understanding of self and others, it is still an abridged approach to how people establish that understanding in interaction. Spatial and temporal categorizations need to be recognized as resources for speakers’ identification processes, as I will show in this book. Third, this study investigates shared practices between people that can point to some form of “commonality, connectedness and groupness” (Brubaker & Cooper, 2000, 20). This shows relational thinking that goes beyond specific positions taken or assigned to others by speakers, in terms of mutually oriented practice. Collectivity is not only grounded in categorical “sameness”, but also in joint action (c.f. Melucci 1995; 1989). Concluding these three considerations, my theoretical and empirical findings in this book are based on the concept of belonging.
Belonging as it is used here encompasses spatial, social and temporal aspects in both categorical and relational dimensions. It overlaps with thoughts about identification as social positioning, but it also goes beyond conceptualizations of “mere” social categories. Belonging is “by its very linguistic force about place, about context and about location” (Anthias, 2016, 178). Furthermore, it also focuses on what Barth (1969, 15) calls the “cultural stuff” social boundaries enclose, the categorical contents, shared experiences and practices that can bind people together. In the following, I will introduce different (though sometimes intertwined) conceptualizations of belonging, concluding with an operational definition of the term as it is used in the specific context of this book.
Belonging is a concept that draws on the discussions of identity as social positioning (Bucholtz & Hall, 2005). Identification – personal and social – is not only seen in terms of internal and external categorization (Jenkins, 1994), but comprises relations between people, and hence is also a question of where people position themselves within a social structure and specific place. The relationship between belonging and identity is not entirely agreed upon in the current literature; in fact, we are far from anything resembling a thorough and shared definition of belonging. Similar to identity, belonging as a concept is increasingly present in a wide range of areas of inquiry – among others, political sciences, psychology, geography and sociology (Lähdesmäki et al., 2014, 2016). In (socio-)linguistics, however, the concept has yet to gain a foothold. Socio-linguistics often focuses on identity in its different dimensions, and its relation to language and/or language use or linguistic means of identification (see section 3.1). Sometimes implicitly, other times explicitly, belonging accompanies the identity concept ← 24 | 25 → and is sometimes even presented in the form of the co-occurrence23 “identity and belonging” (e.g, Kraus 2006, Krzyżanowski & Wodak 2008). However, in comparison to the concept of identity, belonging has not been widely theorized until now (a few exceptions are discussed below). Its common sense semantic meaning of ‘feeling at home’ or being ‘rooted’ somewhere might have played into that. What all approaches from the different disciplines agree on is that belonging is at its core a social notion, indicating categorical belonging to groups organized both on the small to large scales, such as families, friends, communities or nations. Belonging has two dimensions within the notion of social identification, depicted by the distinction of belonging to and belonging with, a division which is semantically more precise in the German language with Zugehörigkeit (to) and Zusammengehörigkeit (with) (Pfaff-Czarnecka, 2011, 202). Whereas belonging to points to categorical group memberships, belonging with points to the relational dimensions within the group. These include shared experiences, memories, practices, interactions etc. – all the activities that might strengthen the cohesion of collective feelings of belonging, but which are not necessarily based on shared categories. Belonging is hence categorical, relational (Pfaff-Czarnecka, 2011; Anthias, 2016) and primarily social. A second dimension of belonging covers these kinds of collective relations in specific spaces – social as well as geographic. Temporality is the third dimension in constructions of belonging, which is yet to be treated theoretically and empirically. I recognize that the temporal notions of memory (as depicting collective experiences), continuity/disruption and temporal connections between place and groups are of significance here.24 The different and interconnected dimensions of belonging will be discussed in the following order: spatial belonging, social belonging, then temporal belonging. This segmentation into spatial, social and temporal belonging improves chapter readability. The concepts are, however, theoretically and empirically indivisible and intertwined, and will refer back to each other in the different subsections.
Antonsich (2010b) discusses belonging in terms of individual feelings of being “at home” and in terms of discursively negotiated politics of belonging. As we will take an in-depth look at the latter in section 22.214.171.124, we will focus on ← 25 | 26 → place-belonging for now. Antonsich argues that personal identity in the sense of self-understanding is thoroughly connected to notions of place. Place encompasses an actual geographical space, but also social relations embedded into that specific place. Belonging to place is then the “personal, intimate, feeling of being ‘at home’ in a place” (Antonsich, 2010b, 645). “Home” is thought of as a “symbolic space of familiarity, comfort, security, and emotional attachment” (ibid.: 646). Although there is a social aspect within the concept of place-belongingness (in terms of families, friends and communities we imagine in relations to specific places), the concept puts emphasis on the individual’s relation with, and attachment to place. The “primacy of place” within the formation of an individual is attributed to the “human subject’s mode of being, which is always ‘being-in-the-world’, ‘being in place’” (Antonsich, 2010a, 121). Hence, the self within this conceptualization is not seen in relation to an “other”, but is rather rooted in surrounding local materiality in space. This relation is also emphasized by Tilley (1994, 26) when it comes to an individual’s basic human needs: “These qualities of locales and landscapes give rise to a feeling of belonging and rootedness and a familiarity, which is not born just out of knowledge, but of concern that provides ontological security”.25 This aspect indicates why a feeling of non-belonging or displacement might have a severe impact on the individual in terms of feelings of insecurity or vulnerability. Lovell (1998a, 1f.) also states that territoriality, locality and belonging are deeply interlinked. In contrast to Antonsich or Tilley’s views, she assigns the importance of these links especially to the construction of a “collective memory surrounding place”. Place is both crucial for groupness (see 2.4 and 2.6.2) and an individual’s self-understanding, a “sense of who one is” as a “bounded self” (Brubaker & Cooper, 2000, 17f.). Although place-belonging is often addressed in inquiries of collective identities, it is also often underrepresented in works on personal self. It is put into a vocabulary of social identification or of in- and exclusion, as Antonsich (2010b, 129) criticizes. When it comes to the concept of belonging, spatial belonging as fundamental for self-understanding (forming part of personal identification) should be interconnected with social identifications and categorizations concerning place (forming part of social and collective identification). Antonsich draws attention to the defining role place has for biographies and the sense of where we belong. One can belong to a place ← 26 | 27 → but can also belong with a place, even though the latter seems to be semantically inappropriate. Belonging to a place highlights a person’s geographical positioning, in the past, in the present, or in the longing for it in the future. Belonging with a place highlights the binding effect place can have for an individual’s positioning in the social world. It is the shared experience of a specific place – the shared origin or a shared geographic materiality that can bind groups together in terms of commonality. In the case of the Nueva Alianza, speakers represent relations of origin that are grounded in place – specifically the community and its corresponding land – as essential for social and place-belonging. In this example it becomes evident that an understanding of the self (also as a part of a group) in its relation to place needs to be connected to social and temporal dimensions.
Belonging is a concept that relies on processes of social identification because it “allows us to study the links between ‘the self’ and ‘society’ from the point of view of the person” (May, 2011, 368). In his work on belonging (Zugehörigkeit) as communicatively produced with linguistic means, Hausendorf (2000, 1) defines the concept as denoting membership in social groups. Hence, belonging here is thought of as located in an individual’s social identity, as in Tajfel’s (1974, 69) definition which was cited above. Hausendorf looks at belonging to groups based on social categories speakers make relevant in different contexts of interaction. Categories and the ascriptions or evaluations speakers relate to them point to social structures and groups placed within these structures by the speaker. To put emphasis not only on social categories and memberships that are attributed by speakers to themselves and others, Brubaker & Cooper (2000) are interested in the social and political contexts in which these memberships emerge and introduce the concept of groupness. It offers an alternative approach to identity and is conceptualized as a cluster around collective (or social) identity. Groupness focuses more thoroughly on belonging as a “Zusammengehörigkeitsgefühl” (Brubaker and Cooper 2000, 20, with reference to Weber 1980). Collective identity has heretofore often been used as a term denoting groups sharing one or more categories, but the authors consider this kind of conceptualization too narrow for the description of group affiliation and (possible) cohesion. Belonging in terms of groupness is flanked by the terms of categorical commonality26 – “the sharing of some common attribute” – and connectedness – “relational ties that ← 27 | 28 → link people” (Brubaker & Cooper, 2000, 20). Both can but do not necessarily trigger groupness – “the feeling of belonging together” (ibid.). Although both commonality and connectedness increase the possibilities of groupness, they are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for its ‘happening’. Brubaker & Cooper (2000, 20) speak of “events”, “public narratives” or “discursive frames” that bind people together. These lived experiences are shared but are not categorical features of people. Shared experiences and practices add to the list of possible markers of commonality – which are part of events, narratives or discourses. Dividing up collective identity in an analytically more specific vocabulary focusing on the making of groups (relations between “commonality”, “connectedness”, “groupness”, Brubaker and Cooper 2000, 20), opens the possibility to position research along a continuum of stronger, weaker and changing forms of belonging:
“belonging can be understood as scalar: one can (feel to) belong to certain groups to a certain degree, for a moment. Thus, while identity implies sameness and coherence within a group or an individual and assumes a shared basis, belonging can account for that which can change and shift in time and place” (Lähdesmäki et al., 2014, 96).
In Antonsich’s view, place-belonging certainly falls into the category of stronger forms of belonging, especially when it comes to something conceptualized as “home”. In the social dimension of belonging, the nuances of importance of belonging can vary. Belonging to the group of students, workmates, or players in a bridge club may have different levels of importance. Some of these groups are abandoned and membership to others acquired. Multiple belongings of an individual can be differently relevant in different contexts and life stages. However, even though the importance of multiple belongings might be organized on a continuum, not all of them can be abandoned or denied by others without consequences. Not belonging to a group, which is very relevant to an individual’s self-understanding, can be as devastating as displacement from “home”. Within the Guatemalan community of interest here, there is a high degree of commonality, connectedness and feeling of belonging together, so we can expect significant group cohesion. However, talking about belonging in this context will not be based on (more or less) observable networks or features shared by the community’s inhabitants. Similar to Hausendorf, I am instead interested in the production (“Hervorbringung”) of belonging by speakers within terms of commonality, connectedness and groupness and the linguistic constructions and negotiations of belonging within narratives and other forms of verbal interaction between community members. Hausendorf’s (2000, 111f.) conceptualization of belonging as membership in social groups is based on belonging as something produced by speakers undergoing the steps of categorization (zuordnen), ← 28 | 29 → attribution (zuschreiben) and evaluation (bewerten)27 as principal tasks (Aufgaben) of linguistically indexing affiliation to groups. This is a good starting point when focusing on a speaker’s means of producing belonging to specific groups. However, if we are also interested in the linguistic production of dimensions of belonging with a group, we will then need supplementary forms of methodological approaches, as in identifying practices shared by the community – in our case, narrative practices (see 4.3 and 7).
Scholars researching belonging as social location (Pfaff-Czarnecka, 2011, 2013) or social positionality (Anthias, 2002, 2009, 2016; Yuval-Davis, 2006, 2011) draw on the broadening of the term by Brubaker & Cooper (2000), or on an approach which defines groups only as a second-order phenomenon of social positionality. While the vocabulary used to define belonging is very similar to their work, Pfaff-Czarnecka (2011, 201) stresses the multiple different forms of belonging an individual can feel. She defines belonging as an emotionally charged “social location” incorporating “commonality”, “mutuality” and “attachments” (ibid.). This definition follows earlier critics in condemning identity as an analytical concept being too focused on categories, emphasizing homogeneity of and dichotomies between ‘us and them’ (ibid.: 203f.). Following her work, belonging as an alternative term has more potential to encompass both processes of ex- and inclusion, as well as individual and collective perspectives on belonging. Regarding the latter relation, Pfaff-Czarnecka stresses the aforementioned distinction between belonging to and belonging with. While the former analytically captures what Hausendorf or Tajfel call the individual’s membership into a group, the latter describes the norms, values and practices keeping the group together. Commonality, mutuality and attachment are bound to aspects of belonging with in Pfaff-Czarnecka’s conceptualization. Commonality refers to groups forming around more than just categories. It involves “sharing experience and the tacit self-evidence of being, of what goes without saying; means jointly taking things for granted, and sharing common knowledge and meanings” (Pfaff-Czarnecka, 2011, 204). Shared knowledge, experience, values and practices encourage mutual expectations and ← 29 | 30 → “norms of reciprocity, loyalty and commitment” (ibid.: 205). Boundaries around social groups and conditions for in- and exclusion (sometimes conceptualized as “regimes of belonging”, see 126.96.36.199) are often based on these kind of reciprocal expectations within a group. Finally, attachment encompasses people’s relations to material things and immaterial ideas about these relations. These can be possessions, artifacts, landscapes, territories, or places. It refers to and widens Antonsich’s concept of place-belonging and underlines the capacity of belonging as a multi-layered concept including not only human relations, but relations to nature, places or possessions such as a house or farm. Attachment does not necessarily need to be related to a group people feel they belong to. For example, I can always feel attached to my home town even though my present social relations and group memberships might not be connected to my hometown at all. Belonging in the collective dimension (with), however, is strengthened if members articulate similar kinds of attachments to a certain (im)materiality or place. In the Alianza corpus, we observe a connection between the community and attachment to place that speakers use to strengthen the community’s claim to the territory, or to validate their struggle of becoming owners. Attachment to place seems to play a crucial role in the speakers’ understanding of self and groups, and is articulated as a central feature of commonality. All three aspects – commonality, mutuality and attachments – form part of belonging with a group, they enforce and secure a sense of the collective felt by group members.
An individual’s belonging to groups is, as I pointed out above, multiple, changeable, and of varying significance. For example, belonging to an activist group defending women’s rights might be more fundamental to an individual’s self-understanding than belonging to a weekly knitting class. Hence, individuals have to deal with different restrictions and possibilities of belonging with a group, and of leaving behind some ties of belonging while forging others (certainly always rendered through the regimes or politics of belonging). Pfaff-Czarnecka (2013) envisions individuals “navigating” these different allegiances and constructing the self within these intersections of multiple belongings.28 Thinking of individuals as occupying a social location situated at intersections of different belongings widens the analyst’s view. Individuals make sense of themselves and of groups from this specific intersectional position; for example, a woman who is also a member of an ethnic group, a church member, a mother ← 30 | 31 → and a farmer participating in certain practices and having a certain set of experiences. Focusing only on social categories and reducing an individual to her membership in an ethnic group is analytically stinted. Ethnicity might be the most relevant category for her self-conception in a given situation; however, it is just one of many which can possibly be made relevant in interaction. Pfaff-Czarnecka highlights belonging (as social location) as combining “categorical attributes” with “social structure”, although the relation between category and structure remains somewhat opaque (ibid.: 216f.). The surplus of belonging as a concept of social location lies not only in the combination of categories and structure, but also in the connection between the two concepts. Speakers use categories to demarcate different forms of collectivities and position themselves and others within or outside these groups.29 On the other hand, this positioning is not carried out or undergone in a social vacuum, but within a social structure where categories are related to each other, often hierarchically, and where the positioning might be restricted or encouraged by certain regimes (see section 188.8.131.52).30 The concept of location and the relationship between structure and agency in belonging processes are discussed in further detail in Anthias’ (2016, 178) or Yuval-Davis’ (2006)31 conceptions of belonging as “positionality”. Social locations connect macro-sociological categories like gender, class or nationality with their “positionality along an axis of power” (Yuval-Davis, 2006, 199), and hence point to their hierarchical organization in a specific social system, in a specific place, at a specific time. Belonging in terms of positionality is both geographical and symbolic, and refers to spatial and social dimensions:
“belonging can include an attachment (to place, community), claims (for place, community), attributions (of place, community), formal membership to places through meeting criteria of such membership, as a commitment or practices of consensus to a state/social system” (Anthias, 2016, 178).
Anthias finds the advantage of the concept of belonging over that of identity in not delimiting people’s questions of “who am I” and “what am I” to often essential and primordial categories resulting in social groups. Belonging encloses “the actual spaces and places to which people are accepted as members or feel that ← 31 | 32 → they are members” (Anthias, 2016, 177), and the intersection of these spaces and places in multiple belongings of an individual. Social space is defined in terms of the individual’s location within a social structure and related to “organizational, experiential, intersubjective and representational” (Anthias, 2009, 12) patterns the individual can resort to. Place is the actual geographical space to which these social spaces are tied. The agency of the individual lies in her making sense of her own positioning within these spaces and places at a specific time (for example through “narratives of location” as a form of empirical data, Anthias 2002, 2009 uses in her inquiries). These active processes of positioning are by definition context-bound in a social, spatial and temporal dimension. Positionality is, then, the middle-ground between both position (structure) and positioning (agency). Social positions are occupied by different individuals. Sharing a social position and its affiliated practices may then lead to the emergence of collectivities (but, as was argued in Brubaker & Cooper 2000, does not have to). Individuals can not only position themselves in (or navigate through) available “social locations”, but they can also negotiate the act of positioning or the attributes and hierarchical organization of the location. For Yuval-Davis (2010, 266), these articulations of social location and belonging to them are expressed in narratives, which will be discussed further in section 4.3.1.
Pfaff-Czarnecka, Anthias and Yuval-Davis point to the same phenomenon of “intersected belonging”; however, in Anthias’ and Yuval-Davis’ conceptualizations, the individual’s agency in positioning processes and in making sense of their social positionalities (surely, within the constraints of belonging politics) is even more accentuated and grounded in empirical findings as “actively lived” social structures (May, 2011, 363). Therefore, it is crucial to introduce the concept of practice as activities associated with specific positions (Lähdesmäki et al., 2014, 96). This will be elaborated in more detail in section 3.2, when we discuss belonging as social positionality. Individual positioning processes can often be empirically ‘translated’ into ‘things people do’ linguistically, with their bodies, with material objects etc.: “belonging is pre-dominantly viewed as the product of everyday practices that connect individuals and groups to the social and civic fabric of a place” (Garbutt, 2009, 98f.). For example, people can index belonging to a specific community of narrative practice by organizing their stories in a similar and recurring pattern, as we can see in the Alianza corpus (see section 7).
“This may be one of the most troubling aspects of all: the fact that the formation of every ‘we’ must leave out or exclude a ‘they’, that identities depend on the marking of difference” (Gilroy, 1997, 301f.).
This holds true for processes of belonging defined in terms of social identification and groupness. Belonging is interactively achieved, and when we talk about who is in, we implicitly or explicitly talk about who is out – who does not belong. Belonging relies on boundary drawing, i.e. separating one group from another. Lamont & Molnár (2002, 168) define symbolic boundaries as “conceptual distinctions made by social actors to categorize objects, people, practices, and even time and space”.32 This means that every ‘side’ of the boundary is occupied by people (in a specific place and time) who are conceptualized as doing things differently than others (Vallentin, 2012b; Jenkins, 2008, 17). These boundaries do not always separate the we from the other, but are sometimes more complicated and “beyond ‘us’ and ‘them’”, as Yuval-Davis (2010, 272ff.) observes. As I have shown elsewhere (Vallentin, 2015), boundaries might be construed not only in dichotomous differentiations of the we from a specific other, but for example by introducing groups functioning as a liminal ‘buffer’ between the two. Where to draw boundaries, and what features or practices determine positions between people, is a matter of negotiation. Similarities might be emphasized to enhance group coherence, or downplayed to increase apparent distinction from others (Barth, 1969). The moment of negotiation is where questions of “who we are, where and how we belong” are conceptualized as “regimes” (Pfaff-Czarnecka, 2011) or “politics of belonging” (Antonsich, 2010b; Anthias, 2016; Yuval-Davis, 2006, 2011). Regimes underlie Pfaff-Czarnecka’s division of belonging into commonality and mutuality. If people share ongoing relations with each other, mutual expectations of behavior emerge which lead to “institutionalised patterns insisting upon investments of time and resources, loyalty and commitment” (Pfaff-Czarnecka, 2011, 205). In contrast to the benefits individuals gain by belonging to a group (social capital, rights and security etc.), obliging to the regimes – which means obliging to certain rules and norms – is the “price people have to pay for belonging together” (ibid.). Politics of belonging relate to identity politics as ideologically motivated claims and struggles about social power and hierarchy: “The politics of belonging also include struggles around ← 33 | 34 → the determination of what is involved in belonging, in being a member of such a community” (Yuval-Davis 2011: 3). This involvement is based on “ethical and political values” (Yuval-Davis, 2006, 203) attached to social locations, and according to Yuval-Davis, separated from belonging conceptualized as a “feeling of being at home”. Hierarchical boundaries between those who can belong and those who cannot are then politicized concepts of “socio-spatial inclusion/exclusion” (Antonsich, 2010b, 645). Apart from also encompassing a spatial aspect of location, these definitions recall identity politics as processes of in- and exclusion based on specific group memberships and/or contested allocations to them. However, politics or regimes of belonging entail memberships prone to relational shifts – to redefinition and inclusion (Pfaff-Czarnecka, 2011, 204). Belonging emphasizes peoples’ intersectionality between multiple memberships to different collectives and (social) spaces (Anthias, 2002, 2016; Yuval-Davis, 2006, 2011). Though this concept may seem quite appealing, especially in its political sense for the negotiation of in- and exclusion in modern and globalized societies, the conceptualizations presented here on regimes and politics of belonging focus rather on macro-scale phenomena within social dimensions of migration, ethnicity or citizenship. Institutional, organizational or political apparatuses are seen as the ‘partner’ in dialogue granting or denying belonging. Using a macro-scale approach to politics of belonging the ‘dialogue’ is thought of in terms of (political or social) rights and obligations, for example connected to citizenship (Yuval-Davis, 2011, 3). This points to reciprocity and mutuality, but omits the actual construction of belonging in interaction:
“We make claims for belonging which others either reject or accept, and therefore, mere familiarity with a place, a group of people or a culture is not enough for us to gain a sense of belonging” (May, 2011, 370).
Of course, this rejection or recognition can be enforced by organizations and institutions representing politics and regimes. It can also, however, be the ‘other’ in an interaction of verbal exchange, who rejects or accepts our situational construction of belonging. Alterity and the existence of an alter (Jungbluth, 2015) is crucial for in situ achievement of belonging in interaction. Individuals index belonging (in its different dimensions) and this must be externally validated, rendered or denied. For social identification processes, Jenkins (2008, 40) called this procedure the “internal-external dialectic of identification”, as outlined in section 2.2. This paradigm also holds true for belonging. The alter does not necessarily have to play an active part in interaction, but can also exist within cognitive projections or imaginations of the individual about a generalized other in the sense of Mead (1934). Antonsich (2010b) and Yuval-Davis (2011) conceptualize ← 34 | 35 → politics of belonging as separated from the individual’s personal “feeling of belonging” and, in comparison, as collectively achieved, at stake and negotiated. Anthias (2016, 176) counters that even the “affective placement in terms of what we share with others and to what this sharing relates” is infiltrated by the politics of larger social relations, and that belonging in terms of politics and individual feelings cannot be separated. From a social interactionist point of view, the critique goes even further. Regimes and politics of belonging are reproduced on the micro level in day-to-day encounters between people; however, they are also altered, rendered insignificant or are not made relevant at all. An analytical focus on regimes or politics of belonging on a macro-scale can reveal insights about social inclusion, policies of citizenship or global migration. However, the range of forms belonging might take when negotiated in the context of actual intersubjective encounters might be overlooked if there is no complementation of an analysis of belonging on the microlevel. They might deviate from official categories, norms and rules of behavior, and are put up for evaluation and renegotiation with the alter in the interaction. We can see an example of this kind of negotiation in the analysis of an interaction between community women and a trainer from outside the community (see chapter 6). In an excursus (section 8.2), I will outline other possible regimes of belonging that mark the difference between inside and outside of the group.
Temporal dimensions in the construction of belonging are the least theorized in recent literature. A feeling and articulation of belonging to a place or a group which is not present in our current surroundings is still possible.33 By categorizing ourselves and other people, we might assign social locations associated with backwardness to the others (the “uncivilized wildlings” vs. the “civilized settlers”, the “conservative” vs. the “modern” etc.). Hausendorf (2000, 279) finds empirical evidence of temporal indicators of belonging (as social identification) in “formelhaft verkürzte(n), typisierende(n) und verallgemeinernde(n) Rückverweise(n) auf bekannte und deshalb eben gerade nicht differenzierungsbedürftige Zeiterfahrung”. This temporal experience is collective, and hence available for every member of a social group (ibid.). The naming of historical events and phases, as well as temporal adverbs or pronouns, are ways in which speakers can display ← 35 | 36 → belonging; however, more is typically required than the reference to a specific moment in time to indicate that we belong somewhere or to/with someone. Temporal dimensions can create boundaries used to index a time-frame in linguistic interaction, for example in the form of narrated time (Ricoeur, 1988, Part IV), thus binding possible social positionalities, significant places or relevant practices to that specific time.
Temporal dimensions also provide a frame of temporal (and mostly past-oriented) orientation for the speaker and the alter in interaction; they can provide a link between places and/or groups and often work as legitimization devices of belonging to a specific place: “Belonging can in other words be depicted as a trajectory through time and space” (May, 2011, 372, with reference to Certeau 1984). Within my corpus, time plays a crucial role – for example, when it comes to genealogical tracking of family lines and the speakers’ biographies linked to the place of the Alianza community. The link between ‘back then’ and ‘now’, and the stable relations of the people within that temporal space, is used to highlight the legitimacy of the speakers’ belonging to the community and the place they inhabit. Hence, the temporal dimension cannot be omitted in thinking about the interactive construction of belonging.
Finally, I will outline how the concept of belonging is used in the specific context of this inquiry: It expresses the speakers’ identification as individuals and as a group in terms of (1) spatial, (2) social and (3) temporal categories, and in the dimension of shared practices in that group. From the deliberations in this chapter, this can be more productively conceptualized in the terms of belonging than in those of identity, even though identification processes are a crucial part of belonging constructions in interaction.
Spatial forms of attachment which can bind individuals together in groups entail shared relations to place, and may serve to underline their distinctiveness. In the data of this study, place is made relevant by speakers of the community as a marker of categorical place-belonging (= belonging to/Zugehörigkeit), and in this very function, also as relational device of shared experiences and memories (= belonging with/Zusammengeh örigkeit).
Furthermore, belonging encompasses the individual’s dimension of being part of social groups (= belonging to/Zugehörigkeit). It hence signifies different memberships, whereby some can be more loose and temporary and some can be understood as more defining for an individual’s social categorization. Belonging also encompasses a dimension emphasizing shared knowledge, meanings and ← 36 | 37 → practices (commonality), and interactions or mutual expectations (mutuality). Within this perspective, the making of groups as a process entailing more than just categorical sameness, but also practices, is envisioned (= belonging with/Zusammengehörigkeit). This will be discussed in more detail in section 3.
The temporal dimension can relate social and spatial belonging dimensions to each other. For example, a speaker can arrange multiple belongings chronologically or can use time to relate a group to a place. Legitimating the occupation of a specific place in terms of ‘we (social) have always (temporal) been here (spatial)’ elucidates this possible relation.34 These spatial, social and temporal dimensions of belonging are linguistically constituted, negotiated and implicitly or explicitly articulated in interaction. How we can analytically live up to a concept of belonging as encompassing categories and practice that are articulated with linguistic means will be discussed in the following sections.
13 Simmel (1890, 103) already pointed out that an individual’s personal identity is the “individuelle Kreuzung der socialen Kreise in ihr”.
14 In human psychological development, the child primarily reflects attitudes of significant others in the phase of “play”. This phase could best be described with modes of identification in terms of “mother”, “father” or “teacher” – that is, singular persons of reference. These relationships grow more complex in the phase of “game”, where individuals are engaged in complex social processes and identify with collectives such as team members, friends, peers, ethnic groups or nations. In this phase the individual incorporates the attitudes of the “generalized other” into her own selfconception (Mead, 1934, 154f.).
15 As emphasized by Brubaker & Cooper (2000, 4) in their distinction between categories of analysis and categories of practice.
16 Fearon’s description of personal identity recalls an approach in the tradition of rational choice theories (Diekmann & Voss, 2004), in which individuals do things to achieve a maximization of utility (positive feelings about themselves). This implies a much too high level of consciousness about one’s own features and some coherence in its hierarchization.
17 Goffman locates the subjective and unconscious parts of the individual in a third part called ego identity (rather resembling Mead’s I).
18 This likening of personal and social identification processes drastically modifies earlier attempts to “outsource” subjectivity into psychology and “replacing the first-person subject of the Enlightenment thinkers into the sociological subject” (Welz, 2005, 6).
19 Melucci (1995, 43ff.), for example, states that collective identifications in the form of a ‘we’ can only emerge within relational identification processes around some kind of action.
20 These two positions do a good job depicting the differences between social psychology and sociology in that matter.
21 Agents who speak on behalf of a group of course can occupy different positions and speaker roles, respectively. Some speakers might be assigned a higher legitimacy to speak on behalf of certain groups (like spokesmen, politicians or village eldest), or they may at least claim that legitimacy. Others’ claims to speak on behalf of a group might be denied. Bourdieu (2005, 125ff.) refers to this phenomenon as a “Delegationsprinzip”, a principle of delegation.
22 The structure-agency discussion is concerned with the fundamental sociological question of what shapes human society – the individual’s agency as an acting human being or the social structure in which the individual is embedded; the relations between agents and structure has been discussed among others by Simmel (1908), Berger & Luckmann (1966) and Bourdieu (1977).
23 Lemnitzer & Zinsmeister (2010, 16) define co-occurrences as two linguistic items that are juxtaposed. If this co-occurrence is of statistical relevance, the two items are defined as a collocation.
24 This approach is also envisioned and precisely analyzed by Höfler (forthcoming).
25 The basic human needs that are put forward by Tilley (1994) recall Maslow’s (1970 , 20) five-tier hierarchy of needs. The most “basic” need is physiological (water, food, air, shelter) followed by less basic but still fundamental needs of safety, love and “belongingness”, support of self-esteem and finally self-actualization in the sense of personal fulfillment.
26 The same term is used in Paff-Czarnecka’s (2011) belonging concept introduced in section 184.108.40.206.
27 In another paper (Hausendorf & Bora, 2006), the English terms “assigning”, “ascribing” and “evaluation” are used to translate the three terms from Hausendorf’s original conceptualization (Hausendorf, 2000). However, the chosen translations are more in line with Sacks’ membership categorization analysis (see 4.1) Hausendorf’s approach is based on.
28 This integrates into the feminist debate on intersection in terms of class, gender, race, ability etc. (see for example contributions to Winker and Degele, 2010 and Kerner, 2009).
29 That these might be construed in that very instant of interaction or be conceptualized as ‘already there’ has been discussed in 2.4.
30 As based on Bourdieu (1977) this structure, however, is not just antecedently “there” but “emergent”.
31 Yuval-Davis (2006, 2010) proposes three dimensions of belonging in terms of social locations, identification and emotional attachment, and ethical and political values.
32 Lamont & Molnár (2002, 168) define symbolic boundaries in distinction to social boundaries, which are conceptualized as materially represented forms of social difference, for example “landowner” and “peasant”. These differences can then cause or be associated with inequalities.
33 For example, even though the Jewish community is spatially and socially dispersed, there is still a strong sense of commonality, mutuality and attachment to the community (Brubaker, 2005).
34 The relations between a group and place through time point to the concept of autochthony. The concept is discussed i.a. in Ceuppens & Geschiere (2005), Geschiere & Jackson (2006), Zenker (2011) as a label for communities who are (or claim to be) “historically longer in a place” than others, who are consequently allochthonous. The concept has recently been presented as a continuum between the two terms by Tacke (2015) and re-conceptualized within the possibility of neo-autochthony by Jungbluth (2017) and Savedra & Mazzelli-Rodrigues (2017). It will be revisited in chapter 9 of this book.
Drawing on the considerations on belonging and identification from the previous chapter, I will argue that the concept of belonging is grounded in practice, specifically in the use of language. Belonging is accomplished through practice by speakers drawing on shared knowledge and displaying shared categories and positions using linguistic means in interaction. The analytical benefit of looking specifically at language when it comes to the description and analysis of practices lies in its key role in providing the social element of interaction (Berger & Luckmann, 1966) and to enable an account of its organization (Garfinkel, 1967; Sacks, 1995). By looking at how members of the community construe aspects of their belonging in interaction, we can “observ[e] the ways and methods people orient, invoke and negotiate social category based knowledge when engaged in social action” (Fitzgerald & Housley, 2015, 6). The first section 3.1 will outline the twofold relationship between belonging and language both as a symbolic means and as a way of expressing categories and positions of belonging. Second, in section 3.2, the practice approach in linguistics and social sciences will be introduced. This forms the basis for a praxeological approach to language as a practice of belonging (3.3) that will emphasize the situatedness and the role of interaction in belonging achievements. An approach to belonging as accomplished by language practice (such as narrating) is applicable for the analysis of my data in three ways: it recognizes people’s language use as shaping local contexts, it starts from the assumption that empirical evidence precedes theory, and it acknowledges speakers’ resources of meaning-making and their positioning in interaction. Finally, I introduce in section 3.4 communities of practice, a concept that defines a collective’s organization not based on shared categories, but shared (language) practices.
The relationship between language and belonging is complex. Language is considered to be the “foundation of the human condition” (Tabouret-Keller, 1997, 324), as it allows human beings to interact with each other, to socialize, to in- and exclude (Tabouret-Keller, 1997, 321). Thus far, a lot of research and theory has focused on the social aspects of speech acts as “acts of identity”. Speakers make conscious or unconscious attempts to define their belonging to a group based on a shared language (Le Page & Tabouret-Keller, 1985). The intriguing thing about language in its relation to belonging is that it has a double function: on ← 39 | 40 → the one hand, it is a bearer of specific representations (Petitjean, 2009), stereotypes (Roth, 2005; Wodak, 2008) or associated boundaries (see contributions to Rosenberg et al., 2015), and hence, it functions as a symbolic and shared property of a speech community (Tabouret-Keller, 1997, 318). That is to say a language (variety) itself – or more accurately, its speakers – are attributed with certain features. For example, speaking K’iche’ in the Guatemalan highlands is usually directly attributed with indigenousness. On the other hand, language is a means of expressing belonging in its spatial, social and temporal dimensions. A speaker can use words in K’iche’ to explicitly express that she is a member of the Ladino community.
I will examine each in turn, beginning with the symbolic function of language. Using language as “external behaviour” (Tabouret-Keller, 1997, 315) is a powerful symbolic means to be identified by others as somebody, as belonging to a specific social group. Identifying someone by looking at her language as a socially shared feature (Le Page & Tabouret-Keller, 1985, 2) is based on “external identification” (Jenkins 1994, see section 2.2) and is described by Tabouret-Keller (1997, 315) as a transitive process: As speaker X speaks the language L, it can be inferred by the hearer that she belongs to group Y, which is assumed to speak that language. This belonging to group Y, then, also carries representations, ascriptions and/or stereotypes related to that language variety, such as being rather “rural” or “urban”, living within boundaries of national or geographic territories and so on. Ascriptions and stereotypical “knowledge” about a language are then often transferred into evaluations and properties of the social groups in question. In this way, links between a community and a language may become reified (Tabouret-Keller, 1997, 321). The association between a language, a group of speakers and its associated properties can be “focused”, which means that their bond is rather strong and established amongst the speech community and its various outgroups. It can also be “diffused” if speech acts might only loosely be connected to acts of identity or be associated with very different aspects of identification (Le Page, 1986, 24). In the case of Le Page and Tabouret-Keller’s (1985) study in the multilingual community of Belize, a decades-long process saw the use of the Creole variety emerge as a “focused” feature with the identifying potential of symbolizing “being Belizean”. If speech acts as acts of identity are “focused”, there is a strong bond of positioning and language use – between who we are (or want to be) and what or how we speak. It is quite obvious that choosing language as a means of identification, or as a means of symbolizing belonging, is a matter of the linguistic options available to the speaker. The more linguistic competence a speaker has, the more she can select from different norms available ← 40 | 41 → (Coseriu, 1976), and hence constitute different and multiple speaker identities (“Sprecheridentitäten”, Kresić 2006). Even if the speaker does not have bi- or multilingual competence in another language, she can still vary on the level of style, dialect or register (Edwards, 2009, 27f.) to express divergence (diffusion) or convergence (focusing) (using the concepts of Giles & Powesland 1975 and Le Page & Tabouret-Keller 1985) with the alter in conversation. A second and closely connected dimension of language-based acts of identity is the identification with someone:
“the individual creates for himself the patterns of his linguistic behaviour so as to resemble those of the group or groups with which from time to time he wishes to be identified, or so as to be unlike those from whom he wishes to be distinguished” (Le Page & Tabouret-Keller, 1985, 181).
Linguistic behavior is a means for social identification, and at the same time a means for social differentiation. By speaking a certain language or using it in a certain way, the speaker can draw a boundary between herself and others and indicate nonbelonging – this is possible due to the symbolic inscriptions into languages and the reified links between languages and specific groups.
Le Page and Tabouret-Keller (1985) envision the social dimension in their study, and how language use is focused on social identification. However, spatial and temporal identification can also be envisioned in language use as a symbolic means. All three dimensions of identification fall under the banner of belonging (see chapter 2.6). As a symbol for certain behavioral associations related to its speakers, a language often is also associated symbolically with a specific geographic region. Therefore, language is not only a behavioral attribute of its speakers, but also indicates something about the potential spatial placement of the speaker. Concerning the temporal dimensions of belonging, the symbolic dimension is a little bit more difficult to conceptualize. Thinking of languages’ diachronic development and the changes that have occurred in a given language, it is hardly possible to associate a contemporary English speaker with that of a 15th century English speaker (maybe we could, if she is an actress in London’s Globe Theatre). However, sometimes a specific type of language use can be idiosyncratically related to a specific time, and hence the speaker’s temporal belonging can be inferred. This is especially relevant in times of transformation, when languages might change their symbolic content due to political and/or social changes. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, for instance, many native Russian speakers found themselves to be minorities overnight in (re)emerging nation states with a different national language (Pavlenko, 2008; Popova, 2016). Russian was all of a sudden linked to symbolizing a burdened past associated with its ← 41 | 42 → speakers. Also, the temporal dimension is able to link belonging to a certain age group, as individual language develops during the course of one’s life. As I have emphasized above, these spatial, temporal and social aspects are only representations related to language varieties, and therefore do not make the associations hearers and speakers have less “real” (Brubaker, 2002). A relationship between language and belonging can also be drawn within languages’ second function as a means of expressing spatial, temporal or social associations to specific areas, time frames or groups. This implies:
“[…] seeing language primarily not in its communicative functions but as a vehicle – the major vehicle – through which we make acts of identity, project ourselves upon others, represent in words our positions in the universes we each create in our minds” (Le Page, 1986, 24).
Language not only works as a charged symbol, it is also the primary means of communication for explicitly or implicitly defining or expressing categories, experiences, imaginations etc. It helps us communicate where we belong, beyond the representations possibly associated with a language variety. This is especially important if language as a category for belonging is, in the words of Le Page and Tabouret-Keller (1985), rather diffused and not focused – if there is no clear-cut and established connection between the language spoken and the conceptualizations people have about belonging.35 In the case of the community in question, the language spoken is the Guatemalan variety of Spanish, with its phonological, lexical, grammatical and pragmatic particularities.36 However, the language itself has no symbolic meaning for the community. It might lead to the observation that community members form part of the Spanish speaking community, for skilled listeners, even to the speech community of western Guatemalans. But speaking this variety of Spanish is not related to the community members’ own conceptualization of belonging, at least not the kind of belonging based on a community level (see 6.3). This is instead tied to the shared history and experiences as well as a strong spatial sense of being rooted aquí, ‘here’, on a specific tierra, ‘land’ (Vallentin, 2012a). As for the language they speak, the belonging to the Guatemalan Spanish speech community or – if the common perception of this Spanish variety is even more reified and bound to national borders – their ← 42 | 43 → belonging to the nation of Guatemala, may be inferred by the listener. However, this relation is not made relevant in the data. When talking about belonging, all of the respondents shared ideas around the relevance of their local embeddedness, and did not attach their belonging to a nationally framed imagined community (Anderson, 1983).
The present data, thus, shows that language does not necessarily need to have a symbolic meaning for belonging that speakers make relevant in interaction. However, it emphasizes its function as a means to express other belonging categories and practices. Language, in this case, is a “vehicle” to transmit projections of the speaker’s own positioning within spaces, groups and times to others. As I have already indicated, this link can be explicit in speakers’ utterances, or it has to be found on a rather implicit level of linguistic realizations. How exactly this is done and how it can be analyzed will be shown in chapter 4.
The acts of identity theory can help us to conceptualize the symbolic and expressive means of language in its relationship to belonging. However, in Le Page and Tabouret-Keller’s (1985) study, speakers’ acts of identity seem to be rather unidirectional. Surely, the hearer plays a role in external identification processes by recognizing how the speaker expresses herself, subsequently allocating certain categories to her. However, speech acts as acts of identity seem to rely more on the linguistic competences of speakers and their more or less rational choices of wanting to belong. On the contrary, belonging expressed by the speaker in an explicit or implicit way needs to be recognized and acknowledged by the alter in conversation, as outlined above. It can be a matter of negotiation and alteration, whereas an “act” implies something firm and inalterable.
Speaking the same language (variety) is a shared practice within the group (Eckert & McConnell-Ginet, 1992a,b). This ensures not only commonality in terms of a categorical feature (we all speak language L), but also ensures possibilities of mutuality (we are able to interact with each other with the means of language L). Analyzing belonging as a concept which emphasizes commonality draws our attention to these shared practices, to how people do things and how they make use of spatial, temporal and social categories to speak about their belonging. One way members of the community routinely verbalize their belonging is, as my data shows, through narrating their story in a particular way and drawing on the shared resources of particular experiences. To conceive belonging as something people do in a habitual and routinized way in interaction, based on implicit knowledge and experience, we need to focus on language as a local and social practice in which belonging is negotiated and achieved. ← 43 | 44 →
In recent years, practices have gained more and more acclaim in thinking about the organization and fabrication (Knorr-Cetina, 1984) of the social world.37 They have become a buzzword in social and cultural sciences, and run the risk of meeting the same fate of the identity concept in its heyday: namely, a decreasingly useful or meaningful definition, or conversely too many competing definitions. However, they enable a focus on repeated and collective conduct that is based on practical knowledge (Reckwitz, 2003, 289). It is a focus on how people do things in their everyday lives and within local contexts.
Around the turn of the millennium, the praxeological approach gained new ground in trying to bridge the theoretical abyss in sociology and other disciplines between agency and structure – between subjectivism and objectivism. Schatzki (2001, 10f.) defines practice as: “the primary generic social thing”, as “embodied, materially mediated arrays of human activity centrally organized around shared practical understanding”. Practices can be learned through “knowledge and experience” (Barnes, 2001, 29), involving becoming a competent member of a community of practice and hence, “done on the basis of what members learn from others” (Barnes, 2001, 27). Learning can also be based on mimicry, where new practitioners imitate more experienced ones in “situated learning” (Lave & Wenger, 1991). However, for some practices, the agents must hold specific positions (of power) to legitimize the practices enacted (as for example in religious or medical practices)38. Practices rely on routinized repeatability (“Iterabilität”, Schäfer 2016a), however, they are also open to innovation and adaptations to specific contexts (Reckwitz, 2003, 294f.). Agents draw on existing knowledge from specific practices to transfer and adapt it to new contexts or contact with new objects etc. In addition, most practice approaches focus on materiality; on the one hand the bodies which are needed to perform them, on the other hand ← 44 | 45 → the objects people use to accomplish certain practices or which constitute certain practices at all (like books, scissors or mobile phones).39
Materiality in language use results from the use of the body, the speech apparatus and other “bodily articulations” (Hanks, 1996, 229), such as gestures, postures or positions, accompanying and shaping meaning-making. To sum up, most practice approaches, as incoherent as they may appear, roughly agree on practices being:
• embodied and/or bound to objects,
• routinized and recurrent, however still open for innovation,
• based on implicit knowledge and experience (know-how),
• crucial for constituting agents’ meaning making, and
• context dependent.
What is, if anything, implicitly represented in this list is the interactive character of practices. As a phenomenon that is routinized and based on socially shared implicit knowledge (Reckwitz, 2003, 289), practices emerge on the premise of mutual interaction. Even though they can be performed individually, practices are not a mere description of an aggregative phenomenon for what agents do individually in a habituated way40; they are, necessarily, a collective and social phenomenon. Barnes (2001) underlines the collective quality of practices with this example of riding in formation:
“Human beings can ride in formation, not because they are independent individuals who possess the same habits, but because they are interdependent social agents, linked by a profound mutual susceptibility, who constantly modify their habituated individual responses as they interact with others, in order to sustain a shared practice” (Barnes, 2001, 32).
Mutuality and ongoing interaction between agents are necessary for the emergence, routinization and renovation of certain practices shared by a community, for example in cultivating land, praying the Ave Maria in church or narrating the community’s story.
Language, as one of the key features for human interaction and in its relation to belonging, occupies a double function in the practice approach as well. Language use can be recognized as a practice in itself, and it is crucial in building, or at least accompanying other social practices (c.f. Deppermann et al. 2016). ← 45 | 46 →
A rather Bourdieuian account of language practices as “communicative practices” is provided by Hanks (1996). In sociology, Bourdieu (1977) proposes a solution of the structure-agency problem by theorizing practices as a relational category, and by looking at agency as incorporated and repeated structure, which is open to renovation. Hanks sees practice as a synthesis between a language’s formal structure, the communicative activity itself and the agent’s dispositions (ideologies) to both the language and the activity. He argues that within language structure there is a distinction between “schematic” and “emergent” aspects. Schemata are “relatively stable, prefabricated aspects of practice that actors have access to as they enter into engagement” (Hanks, 1996, 233). He here refers to something like a language’s grammatical features or lexicon. Emergent aspects of structure are the adaptation of schemata in specific contexts of use, within specific realms of “action”. The schemata rely on “routinization, habituation and commonsense typification” (Hanks, 1996, 233). By introducing a continuum between schematic and emergent language aspects, he promotes the possibility of “regularity and novelty, reproduction and production” (Hanks 1996: 233). In this approach, language is seen as a system with an underlying structure, which then can be modified, adapted or renewed in communicative use. The activity draws on language systems, and is what speakers do with language in situ. Hanks refers to structure because the activity still follows specific contextual conditions. However, it is only “half-structured” because these conditions can be transgressed by forms of activity, and renewed in their contextual effect. The third component of a practice according to Hanks is the speakers’ “judgment”, the “orientations, habitual patterns and schematic understanding of the agents themselves” (Hanks, 1996, 231). To understand what is meant by somebody saying something not only relies merely on the knowledge of a language’s structure, but also on knowledge about the social context of the interaction. Speakers and hearers apply:
“tacit knowledge of the interlocutor and setting with linguistic knowledge of the forms spoken, with metalinguistic knowledge of the routine frameworks in which such utterances should be heard” (Hanks, 1996, 235).
In other words, the participants need to know “what is going on here” (Hanks, 1996, 234) if they want to understand each other. These reflections on communicative practices combine a systemic perspective with the relationality of action to specific contexts and an agent-centered perspective. Hanks (1996, 231) bridges the gap between an either “formal or purely relational (language) description” by focusing on communicative action, the language structures playing a role in these actions and the agents’ habitual patterns evaluating these actions. He emphasizes that the “feasibility” of a communicative practice, i.e. its acceptability by ← 46 | 47 → the audience within a specific context or social field is also connected to bodily articulations, such as “ways of looking, listening, touching, physical postures, movements, and other practices of the body” (Hanks, 1996, 229). Methodologically, he therefore calls for a multimodal approach in analyzing communicative practices.
Breaking a linguistic practice approach up even more, Pennycook (2010, 1) sees language as practice in a “stricter” praxeological sense. Language is the sedimented, repeated and relocalized “product” of practices: “languages are a product of the deeply social and cultural activities in which people engage”. It is sedimented because its structure is derived from its repeated use over time. Any repetition is a relocalization of language in space and time and carries the “illusion of systematicity” (Pennycook, 2010, 47). Pennycook breaks with common assumptions about languages as specific systems speakers draw on in specific contexts instead proposing that the apparent systematicity is the result of iterated and locally contextualized practices. The analytical attention in this approach focuses on the environment in which the practices take place, the spatial, temporal and social contexts of their production. While this ontological thought is appealing in its radical focus on the context of interaction, Pennycook leaves open how language practices might be described, what exactly a practice is and how we could grasp them methodologically. His methodological recommendations focus on the use of ethnography when it comes to the observation of language use in local contexts, which he exemplifies with his linguistic landscape study of the Melbourne graffiti scene (Pennycook, 2010, Chapter 4). It is the task of the researcher to describe locality in its spatial, temporal and social dimensions to understand the practices, also linguistic ones, which are product of the locality as they are the motor for its innovation.
A first systematic interrogation of the topic of language and communicative practices can be found in Deppermann et al. (2016). They argue for a holistic view on language as practice. First of all, language practices are bound to materiality and bodies involved in their realization. It is, for example, important how speakers are positioned in relation to each other in space (Jungbluth, 2005, 2011) to make certain practices, like the use of deictics, feasible. Second, they focus on the modality of language practices. Language cannot be detached from the circumstances of its production; thus face-to-face interaction or using a messenger with pictures and emoticons evoke different communicative practices. Third, they point to the specific participation frameworks of practices (Deppermann et al., 2016, 6). It is crucial to analyze who speaks to whom, and whether the agent of the practice needs to have a certain legitimization to execute a practice. In terms of social belonging, practices can have a symbolic function ← 47 | 48 → if they index belonging to a group of practitioners: “Praktiken sind im hohem Maße domänenspezifisch für bestimmte Handlungsfelder und gesellschaftliche Gruppen bzw. oft noch spezifischer für lokale Gemeinschaften, die gemeinsame Routinen ausgebildet haben”41 (Deppermann et al., 2016, 6, see also section 3.4). Fourth, practices are related to specific action contexts and make them ‘tangible’. It requires the agents’ implicit knowledge to execute practices in their appropriate context and interpret them accordingly. Practices are routinized and can be innovated depending on the changing context. However, their sedimentation makes it possible to relate certain practices to specific contexts or sustain certain identities (Deppermann et al., 2016, 9). Finally, the authors refer to the historical confinements due to, for example, medialization or the social structures they form, and they are embedded in. Language and communicative practices with the outlined qualities can be found at different levels of linguistic analysis (Deppermann et al., 2016, 12f.):
1. practices as super-structured and related to fields of action,
2. practices as a macro-structured theoretical concept of generic terms42, and
3. practices as a micro-structured concept of conversation analysis.
Deppermann et al. (2016, 12) describe the first concept as practices related to specific fields of action and agents’ different habitualized approaches and accesses to these fields. Examples are political rhetorical practices, literary practices or practices of academic writing. The second dimension understands practices as genre, a hypernym for everything people do, for example when writing a letter or telling a story. They rely on certain participant roles in the interaction and are more or less rigidly prestructured in their execution of telling and writing. Action forms practice in this conception. The last practice concept focuses on multimodal application of resources in conversation, which result in action (Deppermann et al., 2016, 13). An example given by the authors is the deployment of prosody or grammar to reach narrative climax. By explicating exactly what kind of practice level is referred to, or how they are intertwined with each other in the analysis, the researcher may prevent analytical vagueness.
Linguistic analysis focusing on conversation as social interaction (Sacks, 1995; Schegloff, 1997b; Bucholtz & Hall, 2005; De Fina & Georgakopoulou, 2008a,b) ← 48 | 49 → is able to track the constitution of the social in real time (“Konstitution des Sozialen in Echtzeit”, Deppermann et al. 2016: 16) and is, hence, a crucial addition to ethnographic observation techniques proposed by most sociologists as a tool for practice analysis.
In this section I will show how the analysis of the concept of belonging as established in Chapter 2.7 benefits from a practice approach. Belonging is a relation of an individual or a group to a certain space, time and social group. It can be framed in terms of belonging to someone/some place, and belonging with someone/some place. People can perform different practices to make their belonging relevant in an explicit or implicit way. For example, agricultural practices, such as cultivating land in a certain way, can indicate belonging to and with a place. Another practice could be wearing specific garments such as the Mayan huipil, each having its very own design, and indicating belonging to and with a specific community (Schevill, 1993). Language has a double function here as we have seen in section 3.1. First, using language in a certain way and creating specific contexts can be a symbolic index of its speakers’ belonging (spatial, temporal and social). Second, speakers can give relevance to belonging by simply talking about it – by introducing local categories of belonging, by negotiating its meaning with their interlocutor(s).
The practice approach I propose for addressing doing belonging is fourfold. First of all, it looks at the everyday activities of people, and what they make relevant or foreground in context-dependent interactions (Bourdieu, 2005; Sacks, 1995; Schegloff, 1997b). During my research, I did not ask specifically about belonging when I interviewed members of the community, but it was a predominant issue that emerged when they talked about the past, the present and the future of the community. Belonging was also made relevant in other settings of interaction, such as in questions of social identification of the group towards outsiders (see chapter 6), and while negotiating regimes of belonging and boundary drawing within the group (see excursus 8.2). Hence, the object of analysis stems from a thorough analysis of the data and is problematized and negotiated by the speakers in varying contexts (Sacks 1995, Hausendorf 2000: 99).
Second, practices in their definition as macro-structured generic terms or “discourse genres” (Hanks, 1996, 242ff.) capture the patterns observable in the narrations of the community members. Hanks suggests that a praxeological approach to genre combines formalist approaches (in terms of organization of a specific type of text), ideological approaches (in terms of “metalinguistic ideologies” of ← 49 | 50 → the speakers towards the text) and action approaches (taking texts as processual, open-ended and recipient-designed) (Hanks, 1996, 242). A more rigid praxeological approach – which would take the formal aspects of genre as sedimented repetition in practice – sees the concept as “a mode of action, a key part of our habitus (Bourdieu, 1977) that comprises the routine and repeated ways of acting and expressing particular orders of knowledge and experience” (De Fina & Georgakopoulou, 2008a, 383). The implicit “know-how” of practices (Reckwitz, 2003, 292) has to be complemented by a notion of “know-what”, a fact that my data reflects as in the context of narratives. Telling a story about the community and belonging within the community relies on collectively shared frames (Goffman, 1974), experiences, categories and positions. Narrating is as based on knowledge as are other practices, such as how to repair a truck or how to cultivate coffee. How to tell the story of your own belonging and what kind of categories or topics to include requires interpretative competence and persistent adaptation to different types of audiences, all the while not compromising the community’s “ways of speaking” (Hymes, 1989). Narrating is a common and shared practice within the Alianza community. Surely, interviews are not the most common setting for people to tell their story (of belonging); however, some of the informants are experienced practitioners, narrating on many occasions for tourists, representatives of NGOs or visiting volunteers. The variety of narrations from different contexts, with different (or sometimes the same) narrator(s) and different audiences show, on a comparative level, how the participants order their knowledge, their (shared) experiences and their categories of belonging. They also show that there are recurring patterns in this organization across different speakers of the community and across different contexts of narrating: “Practice captures habituality and regularity in discourse in the sense of recurrent evolving responses to given situations, while allowing for emergence and situational contingency” (De Fina & Georgakopoulou, 2008a, 382). In conclusion, I view narrating the community story as a communicative practice of belonging. It is a collective phenomenon based on observable patterns in the ways of telling, in forming a community specific genre. Practice is treated as a phenomenon on a meso-level, across individual instantiations of speakers and contexts. Analyzing narrative as practice takes events, action constellations, themes, participant structures and positioning into account, as is further explained in section 4.3. Its analysis combines ethnographic accounts with a conversation analytical approach. Thus, belonging is not only grounded in the things people say, where they make it explicit as category or position. Belonging with a community of practice (see 3.4) is also indexed by doing narration in a specific way. ← 50 | 51 →
Third, practices emphasize the relations between collectively shared habitualizations and individual realizations of language use. For the acts of identity, Le Page (1986, 23f.) still concludes that:
- XXIV, 296
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Book)
- Publication date
- 2019 (October)
- conversation analysis linguistic anthropology narrative analysis socio-linguistics pragmatics community of practice
- Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. XXIV, 296 pp., 2 fig. col., 10 fig. b/w, 6 tables