Cover of Belonging without Othering by john a. powell and Stephen Menendian
Belonging without Othering
How We Save Ourselves and the World
john a. powell and Stephen Menendian


April 2024
448 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503638846
Ebook ISBN: 9781503640092

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The root of all inequality is the process of othering – and its solution is the practice of belonging

We all yearn for connection and community, but we live in a time when calls for further division along the well-wrought lines of religion, race, ethnicity, caste, and sexuality are pervasive. This ubiquitous yet elusive problem feeds on fears – created, inherited – of the "other." While the much-touted diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are undeniably failing, and activists narrowly focus on specific and sometimes conflicting communities, Belonging without Othering prescribes a new approach that encourages us to turn toward one another in unprecedented and radical ways.

The pressures that separate us have a common root: our tendency to cast people and groups in irreconcilable terms – or the process of "othering." This book gives vital language to this universal problem, unveiling its machinery at work across time and around the world. To subvert it, john a. powell and Stephen Menendian make a powerful and sweeping case for adopting a paradigm of belonging that does not require the creation of an "other." This new paradigm hinges on transitioning from narrow to expansive identities – even if that means challenging seemingly benevolent forms of community-building based on othering.

As the threat of authoritarianism grows across the globe, this book makes the case that belonging without othering is the necessary, but not the inevitable, next step in our long journey toward creating truly equitable and thriving societies. The authors argue that we must build institutions, cultivate practices, and orient ourselves toward a shared future, not only to heal ourselves, but perhaps to save our planet as well. Brimming with clear guidance, sparkling insights, and specific examples and practices, Belonging without Othering is a future-oriented exploration that ushers us in a more hopeful direction.

About the authors

john a. powell is an internationally recognized expert in civil rights, structural racialization, housing, and democracy, and the Director of the Othering and Belonging Institute at University of California, Berkeley. He is a former legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Stephen Menendian is Assistant Director at the Othering and Belonging Institute, where he manages many ongoing research projects, including the Inclusiveness Index and the California Zoning Atlas.

"At a time when social justice movements seem determined to divide into smaller and weaker factions, Belonging without Othering makes the convincing case that we are being deliberately pitted against each other by elites, and that the most radical thing we can do is invest in our shared humanity. This sharp and hopeful analysis is a generous and transformational gift. The stakes—our collective survival—could not be higher."

—Naomi Klein, author of Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World

"A powerful offering to a world longing for less division and less hate. powell and Menendian bring story and social science together to create a persuasive case that we can have our identity and culture without warring over them."

—Heather McGhee, author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

"With a breathtaking understanding of justice and an unshakeable belief in human dignity, john a. powell and Stephen Menendian describe a divided society and invite us into a finer world where unity does not require erasure. The writing is lucid, generous, and often beautiful, and it is used to express profound righteousness and moral clarity. It would be hard to read this book and not be inspired to think better and live better."

—Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree and The Noonday Demon

"It is easy to feel like our nation is broken apart and can't be repaired–that our differences are just too great. john a. powell and Stephen Menendian disagree, and after you read Belonging without Othering, you will, too. This is the most hopeful book I have read in a long time."

—Arthur C. Brooks, author of From Strength to Strength and Build the Life You Want

"Belonging without Othering provides a path out of the darkness of toxic polarization and towards the light of more inclusive and harmonious communities. It's both an inspiring call and a practical guide for how to widen our welcome and strengthen our bonds. powell and Menendian have given us the book we need to read now."

—Eboo Patel, Founder and President of Interfaith America and author of We Need To Build: Field Notes For Diverse Democracy

"Brilliant! john a. powell and Stephen Menendian narrate a journey into the very heart of politics and group conflict. Deeper than the myriad issues and material grievances at stake, we find the human longing for belonging animating our identities and our politics. But powell and Menendian elucidate—and warn us against—the dangerous shortcut to in-group solidarity: the rife casting of an 'other.' Imploring us to construct a 'Big Us' that refuses to make opponents into irredeemable enemies, they point the way to a democratic and just politics in pluralistic society."

—Jonathan Smucker, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Popular Comms Institute.