What does it mean ‘to belong’? We too easily conceive belonging as a symbolic attachment to social categories of identity and community, drawing on elaborations of the idea of the ‘imagining’ of community at the expense of examining the practices and materialities that produce the grounds of that belonging (Noble 2002). A focus on the representational character of belonging leaves little room to explore the temporal and spatial processes of how we come to learn to belong. This chapter emerges out of a preoccupation with habits of ‘civic belonging’ in the domains of everyday life. It suggests that ‘civic belonging’ entails a set of questions not just around the ‘cultural’ dimensions of national citizenship (as others have also argued), but around the multiplicities of one’s belongings, the things they attach to, their degrees of intensity, the practices which produce belonging, the capacities they entail and, centrally, how one learns to inhabit and belong (or not) in shared social space. Drawing on a focused examination of my son’s movement in and through the local neighbourhood, it argues that such forms of belonging are embodied, iterative and interactive practices that accrue from infancy. These practices constitute a kind of ‘wayfinding’ through local social spaces, but it importantly argues that any social space involves a pedagogic ensemble of social actors, human and non-human, and pedagogic practices through which human conduct is shaped. This paper began as an attempt to think through some of these issues that had emerged from a series of research projects over the last decade. In exploring experiences of racial vilification and social incivility amongst Australians of Arab and Muslim background in the wake of 9/11, for example, I became interested in thinking of these as pedagogic experiences, because they demonstrated an accumulation of events that produced a transformation in the ways the recipients thought, felt or acted – about themselves, the places they lived in and the people they lived with. I was interested in what people ‘learn’ through routinised occurrences of abuse across a range of social sites, especially in public spaces. I was interested in
thinking about how what they learnt involved a complex and emotional relationship between situated, local spaces and a broader sense of national space in a globalised world. This amounted to the affective and spatial regulation of national belonging; that racialised incivilities represented a landscape of social exclusion which delimited the capacity of some citizens of migrant backgrounds to inhabit public space, a pedagogy of unbelonging (Noble and Poynting 2010). At the same time, I was also interested in the acquisition of ‘conviviality’, the ways through which people in a suburban environment acquire the capacities to live in a culturally diverse society, developing schemas of perception that foreground both difference and affinity and which allow them to negotiate different types of difference and sameness in order to make shared space habitable (Noble 2011). This also led me to consider how newly arrived migrants learn to inhabit a new country of settlement, how they explore unfamiliar physical and social spaces, develop practical competencies for using new systems of public transport, social codes of behaviour, social imaginaries of cultural difference, and so on (Noble and Tabar forthcoming 2014). Central to all three areas were questions around the relationship between local emplacement and citizenship, ethnicity and national identity. But these questions are interesting not in terms of categories of identity and belonging per se, but in terms of their acquisition over time – the modes, relations and outcomes of the cultural pedagogies of everyday life.