Simonsen, Kristina Bakkær. ‘What It Means to (Not) Belong: A Case Study of How Boundary Perceptions Affect Second-Generation Immigrants’ Attachments to the Nation’. Sociological Forum, vol. 33, no. 1, 2018, pp. 118–138.
Across Europe, the symbolic boundaries drawn against Muslim/Middle Eastern immigrants and their children are increasingly rigid and exclusive. While there is broad agreement in the literature that external symbolic boundaries matter for individuals’ self-identifications, the process by which boundaries translate into experiences of (not) belonging is theoretically underdeveloped and empirically understudied. Through inductive analysis of in-depth interviews with second-generation immigrants of Middle Eastern descent in Denmark, this study contributes to the literature by examining boundary perceptions as the mediating link between externally drawn boundaries and subjectively felt belonging. The analysis demonstrates widespread agreement in interviewees’ perception of a bright boundary. At the same time, however, there is variation in the degree of belonging, which is explained by the interviewees’ perceptions of their own position in relation to the boundary. A central contribution of the study is a suggested reconceptualization of the concept of belonging to improve our understanding of the complexity of how second-generation immigrants simultaneously feel attachment to and distance from the nation.