This panel examines the various forms of belonging in relation to practices of (forced) intra-group inclusion and collective boundaries transgression in contemporary South Asia. Our concern is to explore the 'price of belonging' that individuals and collectives pay for belonging together.
Belonging as an everyday experience of being in the world commonly evokes positive associations. In contrast, concepts such as 'peril of belonging' (Geschiere) and 'regimes of belonging' (Pfaff-Czarnecka) reveal the ambiguous character of collective constellations by illuminating the violent politics of exclusion and inclusion. We still know little how social boundaries work, but collective belonging, be it on biological, ethnic, economic or politic grounds, has its price. 'Social contracts' rewarding a person with entitlements and safety confront her simultaneously with claims for loyalty, lifelong commitments, and the limitation of personal freedom. Incorporation may lead to collisions of social expectations, tensions between individual will and 'collective good', and between striving for personal autonomy and for social bonding. Due to the symbolic power (Bourdieu) of belonging, such tensions frequently remain concealed; personal obligations are rarely acknowledged as 'sacrifices' or submissive. We wish to address the following questions: How do collectivities make claims upon individual persons? What are the different forms of 'payments' through which persons gain and secure membership? How are individual and collective commitments (re)negotiated in everyday life situations? What makes some people stay in a formation while others opt for exit? What happens to those who are unable or unwilling to bear the costs? Topics like: consequences of class, caste, ethnic and gendered belonging and membership; inter-marriage; individual navigation through collective constellations are a few examples that we hope to address in this panel.