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What if we would study and re-conceptualize Belonging as not always fixed or place-bound but rather as mobile? Can looking from mobility provide for alternatives sources for belonging? What is at stake, for whom, and when? When or where does belonging ‘work’, and why?

Open Call closed

Thank you for your applications. The Open Call for the 2023 edition of the Conference is officially closed.

Background information

The NIAS Conference looks to unpack ‘Belonging’ as understood from a static default, and instead to inquire into, and re-conceptualize, belonging as not singular and place-bound but rather as a process or a doing. Can looking from ‘Mobility’ provide for alternatives sources for the Studies of Belonging?

Theories and practices of belonging tend to often operate from the default of stasis, where those who were here first belong more than others, and have a greater say over newcomers to ‘their’ world. In this default, mobility appears as the antithesis of belonging. In this default, mobility can only be considered as undesirable as those in search of new belongings are held to disturb pure, original, native places and cultures of belonging.

What would it bring to conceptualize belonging as multiple, as temporal, as potentially mobile?

And yet mobility is what qualifies and troubles our world perhaps more than ever. People, just as other species, are always looking to find new arrangements to contribute and belong, either in the form of temporal moorings and dwellings, or by rooting more substantially to specific places, cultural arrangements, practices and imaginaries.

Still, the possibilities to move and belong as well as how they are appreciated, are unevenly distributed. For newcomers, migrants and refugees, searches for belonging seem to be increasingly precarious, contested, resisted, made difficult or exclusive. Welcomes are often fraught and hard. Others – frequent flyers, mercenaries, celebrities, capitalists in search of tax havens – find borders and boundaries to be less merciless.

Can looking from mobility provide for alternatives sources for 'Belonging'?

For some ‘natives’ it is harder to welcome newcomers than for others. Particularly when the newcomers compete with these ‘natives’ regarding scarce goods, such as housing and work. It therefore makes sense to further unpack mobility, and to distinguish between physical, social, cultural and virtual mobility. Particularly those ‘natives’ who lack social and physical mobility feel threatened by mobile people (mobile both in the sense of physical as well as social/economic mobility).

Can looking from mobility provide for alternatives sources for belonging? What would it bring to conceptualize belonging as multiple, as temporal, as potentially mobile? Would we need other (mobile) methods to study such processes? And might such rethinking of belonging for a mobile world bring new insights and hopes for discourses and practices stuck in stasis, and for their related harsh polemics?

About the Spheres

The conference will be structured around five ‘spheres’ where important narratives and practices of belonging are being negotiated and rendered (im)mobile. Each of these will be curated by a renowned scholar in the field. And for each of the spheres, we will look to unpack their ‘immobile’ default as well as to investigate what it would bring to rethink the work of belonging which people, and other species, undertake as fundamentally related to modalities and infrastructures of mobility. The spheres are:

  • The Body Politic
  • Belonging as / at Work
  • Dwelling / Home-ing
  • (Re)making Public Space
  • Ecologies of Belonging

For more elaborate information about the five spheres, please click here. In each sphere, academic and artistic contributions are welcome. Each sphere is open to all social sciences, (digital) humanities, and artistic disciplines.

Submitting proposals

Artists, scholars, writers, and journalists are invited to submit a proposal of max 200 words per individual presentation. Every proposal should indicate a preferred connection to one of the five spheres.

There are four options for participation, each with its own submission requirements:

  • Full Session, a panel to consist of 4 individual presentations. Session proposal of max. 200 words to be submitted by Session Coordinator, along with max. 200 word descriptions of each individual contribution submitted by each Session Member.
  • Individual Presentation. Proposal max. 200 words.
  • Lighting Papers, short Pecha Kucha-like presentations. Proposal max. 150 words.
  • Artistic Presentations, Experiments, or Performances. Proposal of max. 150 words along with any additional relevant documentation.


… will be based on:

  • the fit with one of the spheres
  • profoundness and originality of its take on belonging
  • interdisciplinarity of approach, method, perspective

We will strive to ensure an inclusive conference programme which contains diversity of ideas and perspectives, gender and geographic representation will therefore be considered as appropriate.

Climate Change

With global warming soaring, we are keen to try as much as much as we can to contribute to a carbon neutral framework for the conference. To this end, the conference will be held in a completely hybrid form, on a platform that allows for particularly exciting ways of participating online. We would encourage everyone to consider their environmental responsibilities when registering for the conference, and to prioritize traveling by train, or to join us online instead of flying to Amsterdam. NIAS will look for ways to compensate part of the price difference between train- and flight-fares within Europe, more information will be provided about this when conference tickets go on sale.

We are aware that this choice is likely to challenge the possibilities of an ‘inclusive’ conference. Yet given the costliness of air-travel and the weariness of visa-provision for those participating from beyond Europe and in particular from the so-called Global South, we think that encouraging ‘everyone’ to fly to Amsterdam would stand a small chance of actually catering to inclusiveness.

Important dates

30 May 2022: Call Opens

15 July 2022: Deadline Submissions of Proposals

30 October 2022: Final Decision about Proposal Selection

18-20 October 2023: NIAS Conference ‘Belonging and Mobility’ takes place