Do We Need Social Cohesion in the 21st Century? Multiple Languages of Belonging in the Metropolis

Ellie Vasta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Discussions about belonging, national identity and social cohesion are part of a broader debate that emerges from a number of concerns, mainly to do with identity and specifically with ethnic or religious identities versus the perceived homogeneous national identity. One major concern in immigration countries is that many immigrants and ethnic minorities are not integrating into the destination or receiving societies. This perceived lack of integration creates fears about whether newcomers are developing a shared sense of belonging to the national identity. Without this commitment it is feared that social cohesion and indeed the very basis of liberal democracy is under threat. In this paper, I question whether this fear is valid by exploring the relationship between the individual and society through the notion of 'sense of belonging' - to a community, to a polity and to the nation. What does this mean in terms of national identity and social cohesion? In other words, do we have to have a shared sense of belonging to the nation to be responsible citizens? First, I will briefly explore some of the theoretical debates about belonging to the nation. Second, by analysing immigrant narratives on citizenship, belonging and community in London, I examine the multifaceted modes of belonging and whether migrants and ethnic minorities, who do not have a sense of belonging to the nation or who have a sense of belonging to more than one symbolic or material locality, can still have a sense of belonging and commitment to the common good which in turn contributes to societal cohesion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-213
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Intercultural Studies
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013

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