Editors’ Introduction, Issue Two
Much has happened in the months since we published the inaugural issue of Othering & Belonging.
Donald Trump won an unexpected victory to succeed Barack Obama as US president just as a peace agreement ended Latin America’s longest conflict in Colombia. Brazilians and South Koreans impeached their presidents, while President Erdoğan of Turkey accelerated his authoritarian rule, launching a massive purge targeting his critics. Beach resorts in France made news worldwide when they banned the burkini, and 2016 registered as the hottest year on record. President Trump proposed deep cuts to US foreign aid that, if enacted, promise to exacerbate conflict-driven famines in Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan, arguably the world’s most serious humanitarian crises in seventy years. The Zika virus spread to more than seventy-five countries, including the United States, and Prime Minister Theresa May triggered the process by which Great Britain will exit the European Union.
These developments, and so many others across the globe, are rife with the dynamics of othering, whether along markers of race, ethnicity, class, gender, religion, immigration status, nationality, geography, or a combination of these and other dimensions of personal and group identity. In the responses to these developments, we also find strains of belonging—enough, perhaps, to ground our hopes for a more inclusive future.
If there is a theme to this, the second issue of Othering & Belonging, it might be hope. Hope built not only on the aspirations articulated by groups around the world, but also on the emergence of new organizational formations whose practices are meant to enact inclusiveness and belonging. We start with the stories of two such formations.
Arlene Goldbard, chief policy wonk of the US Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC)—not a government agency!—offers “Belonging as a Cultural Right.” Goldbard shares USDAC’s origin story, with particular attention to the formulation of its Policy on Belonging. In “Equity as Common Cause,” Elisabeth Farrell and her colleagues describe the painstaking journey made by Food Solutions New England from its origins as a predominantly white regional food systems network with no more than tangential interest in race issues to its present incarnation as a deliberately multiracial organization with racial equity at its center.
As very much works in progress, USDAC and Food Solutions New England offer lessons we hope readers will find instructive regardless of their own areas of endeavor.
The featured article in our inaugural issue, “The Problem of Othering” by john powell and Stephen Menendian, provided a rigorous exploration of what othering and belonging entail, why they matter, and of the “forces that contribute to othering and interventions that might mitigate some of the excesses.” Because such an analysis goes to the heart of our purpose with Othering & Belonging, we reached out to thinkers and doers from a range of disciplines and professional sectors to solicit their reactions to the piece. We thank Soya Jung, Susan Eaton, Alex Mikulich, David Clingingsmith, and Dennis Parker for illuminating many of the strengths, and some of the possible lacunae, in powell and Menendian’s analysis. Their reflections buttress our conviction that a framework centered on othering and belonging has much to recommend it.
The rhetorical and literal violence roiling social and political waters in the United States take a heavy toll, the effects of which are felt widely. At a time when incidents of harassment and bias remain common and are often directed against children, especially in schools, a great many parents, teachers, and other caregivers are seeking the tools they need to effectively support the targets of these aggressions. We turned for observations and advice to clinical psychologist Allison Briscoe-Smith and Teaching Tolerance director Maureen Costello, who offered plenty of both. We entitled the exchange, “Explicit bigotry goes mainstream: How can we support our children?”
Resistance to othering takes myriad forms, with the arena of arts and culture often supplying especially powerful and compelling examples. Rebecca Podlech’s “Subverting Established Views: OPPOSE OTHERING!” describes a collaborative project by central and eastern European filmmakers under the banner “Solidarity, Belonging and Empowerment Through Film.” Her short piece includes a teaser from one of the films in the project.
We close this issue with Susie Cagle’s editorial cartoon, “Divided and Platformed.” With reference to the role of Facebook as a platform for the proliferation of “fake news” during the 2016 presidential campaign, Cagle argues that the impulse to belong can be exploited—and has been. Provocatively, she suggests that the “web did not rewrite the rules of society—it just revealed that, in this form, our natural human desire to seek comfort and belonging, taken to scale, can be toxic.”
Progress toward societies and a world characterized by wider participation and more inclusive membership won’t happen as a matter of course. The success of struggles toward those ends will rely on clear-eyed thinking and strategizing, vigorous organizing, persuasive communications, painstaking community building, and on thoughtful movement building and policy making. That the worlds of research and scholarship, advocacy and activism, arts, science, business, politics, and grassroots community all have vital contributions to make is one of the core premises of Othering & Belonging.
To all our truly diverse contributors, supporters, and readers—thank you! We hope that you will alert others in your networks to this forum and invite them to submit their own contributions.
Yours in Belonging,
Andrew Grant-Thomas, Editor-in-chief
Rachelle Galloway-Popotas and Stephen Menendian, Editors