Being an immigrant, the idea of citizenship has interested me for a long time. My status as a ‘resident alien’ has always struck me being slightly oxymoronic, in the sense that being that being a resident of a place – being a regular inhabitant – would seem to be at odds with the kind of distance and foreignness that ‘alien’ implies. The term makes a distinction between the places we live in and the places we belong to. And since one can call a place ‘home’ and yet, not belong to it, ‘belonging’ must be a different kind of thing than ‘familiarity,’ for example.
We can think of ‘belonging’ as it relates to different types of places; what different entities can we belong to? In order to legally belong to a country, one must attain citizenship. Belonging is bestowed upon immigrants as a result of a legal process. On the other hand, I wonder: Is belonging to a country like belonging to a community? Is a country a special type of community?
Certain communities, like housing co-ops and communes, have citizens; but there is no distinction made between living in that community permanently and belonging to it. There are no ‘resident aliens,’ as it were. There is, however, a certain process or protocol for being accepted into these communities, for being able to claim ‘belonging’. Belonging is something given, rather than something felt or claimed for one’s self. It has to be confirmed and verified. Is this always the case?