BELONGING AND THE TEMPORAL DIMENSIONS OF ARCHITECTURE _ The research explored the varied ways in which residents construct a sense of belonging to Claremont Court as a place. Belonging can be defined as a sense of ease with oneself and with the surrounding world of people, cultures, places and material objects. Achieving a sense of belonging matters to people because being able to define what one has in common with others is fundamental to one’s sense of self – belonging in other words speaks to who one is.

Credits: May, Hicks, Lewis 2017

Drawing upon the interviews we conducted with Claremont Court residents, the first dimension of belonging that we explore is collective relational belonging, that is, the different perspectives on ‘community’ that exist among the residents. Such belonging is a negotiated accomplishment that hinges on the extent to which a person feels they are accepted as a member of a group (Cohen, 1982b). Furthermore, the formation of a ‘community’ relies on the drawing of boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’ (Cohen, 1982a; Ahmed and Fortier, 2003). We found that the residents at Claremont Court draw these boundaries along a number of axes and that it is not possible to speak of the community at Claremont Court. But belonging is more than just relational belonging to people. We understand belonging as a ‘multimodal enmeshment’ whereby ‘the different modes of belonging (cultural, relational and sensory) blend into each other in complex ways at any moment in our everyday lives’ (May, 2013: 152). We therefore also explore a dimension of belonging that is more rarely explored in community studies, namely residents’ relationship with Claremont Court as a building. While belonging to community tends to in the literature be presented as hinging on length of residence, class and ethnicity, our findings are more complex – spatial organisation and the building as a temporal entity also emerge as important factors.


Related publications and presentations:

May, V. & Lewis, C. ‘Using sensory methods: Researching home, belonging and atmosphere’, Sociology departmental seminar, University of Manchester, 4 October 2017.

May, V. & Lewis, C. ‘The use of sensory methods to study atmosphere and place’, Exploring Sensory and Material Methodologies seminar, Department of Social Sciences, Media and Communications, Brunel University, 5 May 2017.

Lewis, C., May, V. & Hicks, S. ‘Competing discourses of belonging and temporality on a modernist housing scheme’, British Sociological Association Annual Conference, Manchester, 4-6 April 2017.

Lewis, C., May, V. & Hicks, S. ‘Researching place, belonging and atmosphere using architectural and sociological methods’, British Sociological Association Annual Conference, Manchester, 4-6 April 2017.