When I was in Broome last dry season some of my Goolarabooloo friends asked me where I belonged. I had quite a funny reaction to this question. I feel deeply connected to that country, but do I belong there? If I said yes, what would I be saying yes to? Since starting my research I have been very reluctant to write about belonging. Is it because when we belong we are staking some sort of claim, or making a commitment to a place-people? Listening to one of the conversations I had with a walker of the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail, I realise that much of what we discussed centers on experiences of belonging to people-place. When non-Indigenous people have conversations about belonging to people-place it can often be underpinned by reluctance, particularly if these feelings of belonging have a spiritual dimension (… I am writing about myself and assuming that other people have had similar experiences. See Miller and Read references below). The deeper I get into this work I feel as though this caution (fueled by fear of appropriation of Indigenous other???) is a distraction to the deep work that is happening on country for people of different cultural backgrounds. Is it possible to talk about an essence of belonging or being with country without universalising human experiences?
Back to the conversation I was having with a walker of the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail, another thing that emerged from this conversation was a sense of coming home, but home to what? Feeling connected? An essence of what what it is to live? Certainly a dissatisfaction with contemporary Western values underpinned this conversation and was leading into the seeking of something ‘more’, something that has been ‘lost’ from the ways that we as Westerners live and are being in the world.
Miller, L. (2003). Belonging to country – a philosophical anthropology. Journal of Australian Studies, 27(76), 215-223.
Miller, L. (2003). Longing for belonging: a critical essay on Peter Read’s Belonging The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 14(3), 406-417.
Read, P. (2000). Belonging : Australians, place and Aboriginal ownership. Oakleigh: Cambridge University Press.