belonging

Shideh, your story was lovely. And it really made me think about why it is so hard for us to let go, to free ourselves from attachment to a place, a person or a thing. As a sociologist, I’m constantly being trained to go deeper and question everything. Among all the subjects that we become trained in, culture somehow finds its way into all of them. We’re trained to analyze how culture shapes the meanings that people attach to things, why people from different cultures struggle with each other at times, and ultimately, why culture matters in the first place. Wouldn’t it just be easier to be a “citizen of the world”, having no attachments to nation-states, to boundaries, and to a particular group? The idealist in me says yes, the budding sociologist in me says no.

No because people have a need to feel as if they belong. And they have a need to feel needed. Nationalistic tendencies are just an expression of these needs. While attachments to lands, customs, and beliefs can in fact divide us (as history has shown time and time again), it can also become a uniting force. Imagine what a colorless world it would be if everyone shared one culture, one nation, one custom. There would be limited opportunities to become exposed to another way of life. To open your mind to new possibilities. To have your beliefs challenged. And to come out as a more understanding, intelligent and strong-willed individual.

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Cultural exchange in Omani desert. A group of young women from Europe and the Arab world travel through the desert in Oman, in a project aimed at increasing cross-cultural dialogue. BBC News.

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2 Comments

Filed under belonging, culture

2 responses to “belonging

  1. thank you for the beautiful post Manata. I specially liked the picture, what a scene.

    this is an interesting topic; I wonder if having distinct cultures, costumes, traditions, and languages can limit out notion of home, however. I agree with you that the world would be a plain and boring place, if everyone shared one culture, nation, and costume. Do you, however, need to have that sense of belonging in order to feel at home? Is it possible to feel at home regardless of what costumes and cultures you carry and encounter? I guess this is more complicated than that. It probably depends on our personalities and how we can connect to certain cultures and traditions. The question of home remains to be an unclear topic for me though.

  2. Manata

    I think that if we think of “home” as a place where we have a sense of belonging, then home for us would be anywhere to which we feel we belong. In this sense, if we feel that we belong to our country, then our country is our home. Going even deeper, we might feel disconnected and “un-belonged” in a country, but at home in our own particular town, neighborhood or house in that country. I think the issue ultimately ties back to our definition of what comprises “home”: is it a place where we feel that we belong, a place where our loved ones are, or a place that holds a special meaning to us? I would be interested to know what definitions come to people’s minds when they think of home.

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