The issue of identity often brings to mind that of territorial affiliation. However, today, the connection between place and identity is increasingly expressed in terms of exclusivity, nationalism, localism, and even xenophobia and aggression. In other words, the question of identity appears to be dominated by right-wing perspectives. Leftist critical and radical thinking often avoids discussing themes of territorial identity, out of fear of slipping into right-wing discourses. However, these themes remain fundamental pillars of many radical social movements around the world, from the No TAV protests in Italy to the resistance of the Standing Rock Sioux in the US, from the defence of urban commons and neighbourhoods in Western metropolis to struggles for autonomy and self-determination in places like Chiapas and Kurdistan.
How can we develop a critical understanding of the relationship between identity and place? Are territories and identities fixed in space and time, or do they change over time? How can we define identity, given its multifaceted and dynamic nature? What methods can we use to investigate territorial belonging across different geographical scales and cultural and political contexts? Finally, what kind of identity and territorial belonging emerge in emancipatory and anti-colonial struggles, and how do these movements challenge dominant discourses?
The aim is to combat localist or nationalist claims to place based on eternal essential, and in consequence exclusive, characteristics of belonging: to retain, while reformulating, an appreciation of the specific and the distinctive while refusing the parochial.