Putting belonging into place: place experience and sense of belonging among Ecuadorian migrants in an Italian alpine region

Roberta Raffaeta, Cameron James Duff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the meaning and mechanics of belonging with a particular focus on the role of place and place-making. It explores the ways people come to achieve a sense of belonging with reference to recent theoretical treatments of place, territory, and mobility. We ground our discussion in analysis of an ethnographic case of Ecuadorian families who have migrated to Trentino in northern Italy. Most families miss the social relationships and places they left behind, but have decided to stay permanently in Italy, giving up the myth of return (Anwar 1979). Trentino offers more opportunities in term of employment, education, and access to services than Ecuador. Yet the decision to stay in Trentino is based on more than a simple assessment of economic advantage. Participants spoke of a slowly unfolding sense of belonging to Trentino, with strong affective dimensions born of a specific attachment to the very materiality of place in Trentino. This attachment may be regarded as an assemblage of social, material and affective resonances, experiences and resources, revealing something of the place and feeling of belonging. Hence, the Ecuadorian sense of belonging does not rely on an abstract conception of cultural affiliation, nor is it a purely psychological response. Rather, belonging accrues in particular practices and material attachments. We unpack these practices by documenting the work participants put into inhabiting an unfamiliar place as their place, while at the same time questioning the ontological status of space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328 - 347
Number of pages20
JournalCity and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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