Rootedness: more than belonging?

Saturday 12 October, 13:3015:00, The Old Joint Stock, 4 Temple Row West, Birmingham, B2 5NYUK satellites

This debate is part of a day of debates organised by Birmingham Salon. For further information and tickets, visit the Birmingham Salon event page.

‘It isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re going that counts.’
Attributed to Ella Fitzgerald

In the latter part of the twentieth century, the idea of rootedness came to be viewed as old-fashioned, undynamic and restrictive. ‘A community is something you grow up in and then get the hell out of’, said Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead. For many people, the time had come to throw off restrictions, whether of race, class, or religion, to which rootedness seemed inexorably linked. More recently the critic, writer, and TV presenter Jonathan Meades asserted that ‘roots are for vegetables’.

But one explanation advanced for the result of the 2016 EU referendum is that the embrace of liberal cosmopolitanism values has resulted in a backlash. For some critics, the importance of beloning and rootedness to people’s lives and to human flourishing has been underestimated. In David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere, ‘anywhere’ cosmopolitans are contrasted to ‘somewheres’ with a strong attachment to place. In the eyes of some, cosmopolitanism is superficial and an indulgence of the flighty well-off, although that might appear a troubling and excluding explanation to those newly arrived in the UK from other countries, hoping to establish a life for themselves and their families.

Giles Fraser, an Anglican priest and UnHerd columnist, founded and briefly ran a party called Home, focused not only on a pro-Brexit policy of taking back control nationally, but also linked to the housing crisis and people being literally unable to afford a home. There is also renewed interest in the philosopher and writer Simone Weil, who believed that a sense of rootedness was of huge importance in facing up to the human condition.

Who are the rootless anywheres? Are there still places where communities of the truly rooted can be found? This discussion will look what we mean when we talk about rootedness, and at its social, psychological, cultural and political aspects.