About The Conference

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The Othering & Belonging conferences are dynamic and uniquely curated events which aim to elevate work nationally and globally in "othering and belonging" a critical lens for defining structural exclusion and inclusion, and an analytical and applied framework which we can use to design and advance institutions, narratives, and policies that support a more fully inclusive “we.”  

The Othering & Belonging conferences are an illustration of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society’s commitment to public and community engagement, a cornerstone of how we aim to generate and contribute to thriving democratic and civic participation.

A major aim of this work is to popularize and familiarize our movements and our larger communities and networks with the skills and knowledge to participate in advocacy and ideas using a belonging framework.  Both in our conference programming and our ongoing Institute initiatives this means we elevate empirical and evidence-based approaches while prioritizing relationship-building that can spark new and innovative collaborations. This work cuts across discipline, identity, issue-area, national borders, and generations, in order to propel more impactful work for all of us.

The conferences serve as dynamic and highly interactive feedback loops that helps us examine, sharpen, and understand together the applications of these frameworks. They are focused spaces where we can continue to build connective tissue between our research and community engagement and to elevate work which helps illuminate our understanding of and responses to structural and systemic inclusion.

Similarly, the ideas and momentum generated from our conferences help shape and inform new efforts of the Haas Institute. Since our first conference in 2015, we have created and published three issues of our Othering & Belonging Journal, a multimedia and print platform which serves as a rigorous, research-informed space for scholarship as well as a forum for innovative arts and cultural offerings related to this framing. This platform allows us a space to continue building connective tissue between our conferences and research, elevating work which helps illuminate our understanding of and responses to structural and systemic inclusion.

Focus of the 2019 Conference

With a strong framework built over our first two Othering & Belonging conferences, people have frequently turned to us with a key question: how do we make belonging real? Programming for our 2019 conference will provide key elements to respond to this question. We will examine systems, models, movements, narratives, and institutions that either advance or inhibit belonging.

We will also explore our analysis of breaking and bridging, as responses and formations in our current moment of rapid global change. Breaking is a politics based on an “us vs. them” strategy, manipulates anxiety around change, generates animosity that targets the most vulnerable populations, resulting in a smaller and smaller “we.” Breaking creates the conditions for increased authoritarianism and rising nationalism and is threatening the very existence of our living planet. Bridging, on the other hand, affirms our inherent connection to each other and our planet, welcomes our differences, does not deny but incorporates our shared history, is based on an ethics of human dignity, and calls on us to co-create a responsive government and civic life that advances our common good for a shared future.

The 2019 conference will highlight models of bridging that give us examples and potential blueprints of how to build and sustain a diverse, pluralistic society underpinned by a new, inclusive social compact where group-based difference and forms of identity—whether race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, among others—are not dehumanized nor are they subsumed, but instead are celebrated and included in our imagined and real community. A social compact based on belonging calls for us to be active participants in our political, economic, and cultural life, and takes action when those boundaries are breached.

The 2019 conference will also prioritize an examination of global political and social phenomena across this same spectrum of analysis, how they are in close interaction and relationship with US political and economic systems, and how the global rise of exclusionary, ethnic-nationalist, and authoritarian politics are informing and threatening our world today.  

Whether on the main room or in our concurrent breakout sessions, the conference agenda will create spaces that deepen our thinking, sharpen our tools, and help define our strategies on how a belonging lens helps further our mutual efforts in building a fair and more just world. We will host an expanded offering this year of workshop sessions, curriculum materials, and interactive elements where our focus will be to grapple with some of the following questions:

  • How can we create structures that support a large, diverse society, with people who are connected across cultures, religions, race, and other lines of  group difference?

  • What models and systems already exist and how can we strengthen them? What new or re-calibrated institutions are needed to realize a diverse and inclusive society?

  • How do we form and sustain relationships, advance narratives, and build movements that truly support a larger more inclusive “we”?

  • How we respond to breaking and how can we activate bridging? How does this analysis help inform our work?

  • How do we make clear connections between global models, struggles, tools, and strategies for expanding belonging? How can we think about this work in a way that recognizes our local realities while connecting our work to global movements, struggles, and systems in order to build a truly international movement of belonging?  

These conferences prioritize building sustainable, working relationships with a global network of diverse actors rooted in a common framework for realizing a fair and inclusive society.  

We hope you will join us in Oakland next spring at this dynamic event—register today!