The BELONG project’s kick-off meeting took place on the 30th and 31st of August at OsloMet with keynotes speakers and guests attending online.
The kick-off seminar started with a warm welcome from project leader Anita Borch and was followed by inspiring keynotes on the concept of belonging and children’s belonging both in Norway and on an international scale.
Vanessa May, Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives at the University of Manchester, spoke about the concept of belonging drawing on her inspiring research findings. She sketched out key discussions and concepts of belonging and defined belonging as «the feeling of being at ease with one’s self and one’s social, cultural, relational, and material contexts.» Vanessa May highlighted that belonging is temporal, connecting the past, present, and future, political and relational, and often tied to non-belonging. Due to its complexity and multidimensional character belonging may be even contradictory, she added.
Eva Johansson, professor at the Department of Early Childhood Education at the University of Stavanger presented the findings of the recently finished research project «Politics of belonging: Promoting children’s inclusion in educational settings across borders.» including fieldwork from Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and the Netherlands. The collaboration featured an analysis of the politics of belonging, a concept coined by Yuval-Davis. One of the most surprising findings for the audience was that there is no term for belonging in Iceland which points to the importance of the context and relations of belonging. She also presented that children’s communities create conditions for belonging and highlighted the relevance of closeness, conflict, and joyfulness.
Mette Løvgren and Christer Hyggen from NOVA, Norwegian Social Research Center, presented the potential of Ungdata (Junior) in the study of practices of belonging. Their presentation comprised three key elements that are central to the BELONG project, namely, people, places, and materials. They explained their findings on how satisfied young people are with their friends illustrating the results of the question if young people have at least one friend they can talk about anything with. In terms of places findings of the young people’s satisfaction at school and the neighborhood were put forth. Activities, the online world, and branded clothes were questions related to material aspects of belonging that the researchers gave insights into.
Asher Ben-Arieh, professor in Social Work, Dean of the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare, and director of the Haruv Institute in Jerusalem is the founding editor-in-chief of the Child Indicators Research journal (CIR) and the Child Well Being: Indicators and Research book series. He presented the Children’s Worlds – The International Survey of Children’s Well-being and outlined first findings on belonging to people a child lives with, friends, school, and the area a child lives in. In addition, Asher Ben-Arieh shared new insights into the results of a study on children’s wellbeing in Israel during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mari Rysst, Professor at Innland University Norway of Applied Sciences and Research and Professor at SIFO (Consumption Research Norway), shared her findings from her research on minority children, consumption, and belonging from an intersectional perspective. She explained that after a Norwegian White paper in 2001 on Norwegian childhood with a pricetag (NOU2001:6) there has been increasing attention on consumption among young people in Norway.
The keynotes were followed by two workshop sessions with discussions and exchanges about the project, the different work packages, and fieldwork, next steps, and knowledge on young people’s belonging.
Text by Clara J. Reich (PhD candidate at SIFO), 15. November 2021