Identity, Belonging, and Conflict: Symbolic Borders of Community

Identity, Belonging, and Conflict: Symbolic Borders of Community

Ziya Kıvanç Kıraç
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8911-3.ch010
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The concept of community is a controversial concept in terms of social sciences. However, today, when considered together with the concepts of identity and belonging, it can be said that the community has strong connotations. Where the community begins and ends is explained by the concept of boundary. The inside or outside of the border is a map of meaning. Because giving meaning to complex nature and society is one of the most important needs of human beings, the crisis of meaning created by modern times for humanity has led to the strengthening of grand narratives. The narratives, which propose various ways of life for the salvation of humanity, especially make use of symbols and symbolic forms. Because symbols are carriers of meaning, in this study, the identity factor, which constitutes the essence of the endless conflicts in the world, has been investigated with the symbolic constructs of the ideological view. For this, a connection has been established between identity, belonging and the community, which includes the meaning of collective action.
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The word community has recently become important to both sociology and anthropology, and to politics at the intersection of all these. There are opinions that concepts such as community will become invalid with modern times. However, today, it is seen that every concept that evokes identity in the post-modern period has returned strongly. In fact, there have been serious discussions lately that the concept of community has a school duty to envision the world. Undoubtedly, the role of sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists and political theorists and thinkers in such a conceptualization cannot be denied. Therefore, it can be said that the concept has been scrutinized by both structuralists, anthropologists and political sociologists. Today, identity is seen as the distinctive object of the community. The community, on the other hand, is considered as a tool in the “struggle for survival”. In another dimension arising from the characteristics of the post-modern period, it is argued that communities erode the power of nation-states through international connections. While the community may connotate ethnicity, it can also cover areas such as associations, foundations, cooperatives, professional chambers, local governments, non-governmental organizations, clubs on a much larger scale. Moreover, ideological organizations can be an example of it. At the same time, these components are sub-parts of both society and its political state, the state system. Therefore, it is normal for them to influence each other both culturally, normatively and politically. The dimensions and effectiveness of this interaction require complex evaluations, which can be explained both by the content of belonging and by the resistance of the system to communities. With the state's approach to social justice and social security issues, the fact that communities can sometimes turn into a pressure group and affect the current situation has the potential to affect the entire state order. So, how does a community with a significant influence on power and state come into being? It is important to first seek an answer to this question. Because the formation of the community depends on more complex dynamics than is thought. The desire to become collective depends primarily on the idea of ​​having something in common. And having something in common is the point at which separation from others is marked. Therefore, community is to construct the other through similarity. Similarity and contrast constitute the founding chemistry of the community. At this point, the second question is how the self and non-self are established.

The breaking of the power of religion with modernism has voided the meaning templates based on mythology, religion and ritual. Instead, the orientation towards the phenomenon and the rise of positive science indicate a new era in the establishment of “meaning”. However, when faced with the emptiness of meaning, man faltered and could not adapt to life surrounded by strict natural rules. In the emerging situation, ideologies emerged as dictionaries for understanding life and instilled a belief in people in a secular way. Many studies show that people are motivated by irrational impulses. Ideologies, as mental description models, have given people the chance to construct life and be together. Ideological polarizations both define themselves and describe the other, that is, outside the border. Today, this is the common feature of local, ethnic, occupational and all other community categories. The motive to be us is to build others as well. The shortest way to this is to make use of symbols and symbolic forms. Because symbols are loaded with meaning and give people the password to belong to the community. Colors, flags, clothing styles can be symbols, as well as more complex structures such as rituals and marches can be considered as categories of symbols. Symbol offers us the capacity to create meaning, it does not directly replace meaning. The meaning that governs our perceptions of the outside world is formed on a slippery plane. However, belonging is perpetuated through symbols, which are carriers of meaning. Our interpretations of life, our experiences and the future are of course subjective. In contrast, communities focus on their members making similar interpretations of life.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Symbols: Signs that convey meanings in a short way.

Political Symbolism: Manipulating the use of symbols to reinforce the identity of groups.

Identity: A fiction that allows us to create imaginary friends and enemies.

Ideology: The narratives that emerged after the Enlightenment and claimed to offer guides to understanding life.

Political Communication: A method of effectively using symbols and other conductors to deliver political messages to the masses.

Community: Clusters of people who are thought to have the same ideas or interests.

Meaning: The stage of understanding what is happening around us.

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