Relational Needs and Belonging in Conditions of Social Exclusion: A Critical Discourse Analysis

Claire Prendergast[1] & Imac Maria Zambrana [2]

[1]  University of Oslo, Norway,,

[2] University of Oslo, Norway,,


Individuals and groups can experience different forms of social exclusion across multiple domains of social life. Owing to its multivariate nature, a generalized approach to studying exclusion has been adopted in empirical work within the field of social psychology. As such, the relational needs thwarted by various forms of exclusion tend to be accounted for by the generalized construct, the need to belong. To increase the specification of these aspects in exclusion research, the interdisciplinary approach of critical discourse analysis and related analytic tools, such as the discursive construction of identity, are used to perform a contextual and systemic analyses of the relational needs implicated in conditions of everyday exclusion. In the discourse of a sample population in Beirut, Lebanon, we aimed to show how distinct relational needs such as acceptance and fitting in can be disentangled from one another, and from the term belonging, as a higher-order concept, disambiguated in natural language. Semi- structured interviews conducted using the language of belonging methodology involved images of socio-political importance as triggers for talk that generated rich data for critical discourse analysis. This resulted in a contextual analysis of sectarianism as exclusionary and a thematic analysis of other experiences of exclusion linked to gentrification, geopolitical division and globalization. Our findings suggest that, as hypothesised, individuals employ distinct terminology when alluding to different experiences of exclusion. This illustrates the benefits of interdisciplinary methods in accounting for social phenomena more fully, and highlights the need for increased specification of generalized constructs in future empirical work on social exclusion in social psychology.

Keywords: Social Exclusion, Relational Needs, Belonging, Critical Discourse Analysis, Discursive Construction of Identity


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