Belonging across the lifetime: Time and self in Mass Observation accounts

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Our sense of belonging rarely stands still, yet the research literature has hitherto paid little attention to the temporal nature of belonging. Based on an analysis of 62 Mass Observation Project (MOP) accounts written by people living in the UK aged from their 20s to their 90s, this paper argues that as people age, how they locate belonging in time shifts. This has to do with changing concerns related to belonging, but also to metaphysical issues of temporality and mortality, namely how people experience their own finite lifetime. The paper thus offers an illustrative example of how time can be empirically researched in sociology, with a particular focus on the important role that the future plays in how people construct their ‘functional present’ (Mead, 1932). The central argument put forward is that time itself can be an important source of belonging, but one that is unequally accessible to people of different ages because of contemporary cultural scripts that present life as a linear progression into the future and construct the future as a more meaningful temporal horizon than the past.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-322
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number2
Early online date12 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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