To be officially launched by visiting Professor Alison Phipps, University of Glasgow
Belonging is an issue that affects us all, but for those who have been displaced, unsettled or made ‘homeless’ by the increased movements associated with the contemporary globalising era, belonging is under constant challenge. Migration throws into question not only the belongings of those who physically migrate, but also, particularly in a postcolonial context, the belongings of those who are indigenous to and ‘settlers’ in countries of migration, subsequent generations born to migrants, and those who are left behind in countries of origin. Negotiating Belongings utilises narrative, ethnographic and autoethnographic approaches to explore the negotiations for belonging for six women from Dinka communities originating in southern Sudan. It explores belonging, particularly in relation to migration, through a consideration of belonging to nation-states, ethnic groups, community, family and kin. In exploring how the journeys towards desired belongings are haunted by various social processes such as colonisation, power, ‘race’ and gender, the author argues that negotiating belonging is a continual movement between being and becoming. The research utilises and demands different ways of listening to and really hearing the narratives of the women as embedded within non-Western epistemologies and ontologies. Through this it develops an understanding of the relational ontology, cieng, that governs the ways in which the women exist in the world. The women’s narratives alongside the author’s experience within the Dinka community provide particular ways to interrogate the intersections of being and becoming on the haunted journey to belonging. The relational ontology of cieng provides an additional way of understanding belonging, becoming and being as always relational.
Dr Melanie Baak is the convenor of the UniSA Refugee and Migration Research Network. She completed her PhD in 2012. Since then she has been employed in research and teaching positions at the University of South Australia, University of Western Australia and Flinders University.
Melanie has research experience on a number of projects exploring the varied experiences of people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds. Her research has collaborated with various groups from refugee backgrounds recently resettled in Australia including South Sudanese, Bhutanese, Burmese and Congolese. Through these projects she has explored themes including; belonging, schooling, employment, identity, home, place, transition, family, gender and sexual violence.
In her spare time Melanie runs a charity, Timpir, which supports education and health initiatives in South Sudan. Timpir currently oversees the education of more than 800 students in 2 schools in villages in South Sudan. Melanie has spent time living in a number of African countries including South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.