Belonging & Longing

Questions of identity have generally been associated with a sense of belonging; of belonging to a nation, a community or even an ideology. But, what does it mean to belong? And does it necessarily give a sense of identity? And does it really enable the formation of an identity?

It could be proposed that ideas of “belonging” have been formed with the rise of nation-states and their formation. In this sense, the idea of belonging becomes synonym to nationalism. Nevertheless, one still wonders which came first: Was it a sense of nationalism that was longing for, and thus enabled the formation of a nation-state? Or did the formation of a nation-state enable a sense of belonging, giving rise to nationalism? In any case, it has become a social platitude that an understanding of identity is inherently formed by geopolitical entities.

The intertwining of the formation of identity and nation-states have resulted into emphasizing and even creating the dichotomies between the Other and the Self. In this sense, the idea of creating one nation, one identity and community have emphasized ideas of the Other and increased differences instead of the similarities.

If belonging to a nation-state forms our identity, what becomes the place of individualism in our societies? One could propose and consider that individualism is thus perceived in a more utopic, almost idealistic approach whereby belonging outside the realm of society and gaining a sense of self is achieved through a certain idea of contemporaneity. To be-longing, in other words to hope for, but also to wait, to desire and to wish, are all states of being that identify our present.

As such, it is assumed that individualism is understood via a sense of desire, an ambition and a goal one wishes to achieve. In this sense, being able to identify one’s future objective gives an insight to one’s present.

Talking his line of thought further, while belonging creates a dichotomy between the Other and the Self; longing emphasizes ideas of the Elsewhere. An elsewhere that nevertheless provides an understanding of our contemporaneity. (Nicolaus Schafhausen, extras from the curatorial text)