Belonging is an issue that affects us all, but for those who have been displaced, unsettled or made ‘homeless’ by the increased movements associated with the contemporary globalising era, belonging is under constant challenge. Migration throws into question not only the belongings of those who physically migrate, but also, particularly in a postcolonial context, the belongings of those who are indigenous to and ‘settlers’ in countries of migration, subsequent generations born to migrants, and those who are left behind in countries of origin.
Negotiating Belongings utilises narrative, ethnographic and autoethnographic approaches to explore the negotiations for belonging for six women from Dinka communities originating in southern Sudan. It explores belonging, particularly in relation to migration, through a consideration of belonging to nation-states, ethnic groups, community, family and kin. In exploring how the journeys towards desired belongings are haunted by various social processes such as colonisation, power, ‘race’ and gender, the author argues that negotiating belonging is a continual movement between being and becoming. The research utilises and demands different ways of listening to and really hearing the narratives of the women as embedded within non-Western epistemologies and ontologies. Through this it develops an understanding of the relational ontology,
cieng, that governs the ways in which the women exist in the world. The women’s narratives alongside the author’s experience within the Dinka community provide particular ways to interrogate the intersections of being and becoming on the haunted journey to belonging. The relational ontology of
cieng provides an additional way of understanding belonging, becoming and being as always relational.
"This is an extraordinary book. Melanie Baak demonstrates what might be at stake when intellectual exploration of cross-cultural concepts such as ‘identity’ and ‘belonging’ accepts the intrinsic limitations of Euro-American forms of knowledge. As a result of the careful explication of the concept of
cieng, the reader is offered a chance to understand the issue of ‘belonging(s)’ in a radically new light. By being honest about her own process of becoming accepted by a minority community, Baak shows what is involved in learning to
hear what interviewees are saying. At the same time, this requires an ‘unlearning’ on the part of the researcher which enriches the reflexivity of the research. Her contribution to the emerging literature on this simple yet widely misunderstood term is all the more timely in the context of unprecedented movement of peoples displaced by war, poverty and the impact of climate change. "
—Vron Ware, Kingston University London, author of
Beyond the pale: white women, racism and history