How can groups be united, but not exclusive?

CIFAR's Global Call for Ideas invited applicants from all over the world to propose an important research question they want to address. We chose 12 finalists, and will announce the final selection in May. Find out more about this finalist.

All societies distinguish members from non-members. Indeed, evolutionary biology and psychology suggest that humans are predisposed to distinguishing “us” from “them,” and the process can lead to increased trust and cooperation. But it can also lead to problems like injustice, inequity and suspicion.

The Boundaries, Claims Making, and the Future of Membership program will explore ways to create and empower groups without falling back on ideas that divide us.

As traditional boundaries disappear in the world, many people are searching for where they belong. Recent political events like Brexit show that if new, inclusive groups fail to take root, people turn to appeals based on divisions by race, religion and class.

This program asks: Can we re-draw boundaries in a way that is inclusive without losing solidarity and the possibility of collective action? Why does this membership matter in the first place? And is it possible to have a world without borders?


  •   Irene Bloemraad is a CIFAR senior fellow in the Successful Societies program, professor of sociology and the Thomas Garden Barnes Chair of Canadian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
  •   Will Kimlycka is a professor of philosophy and the Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen’s University.

Find out more about the other short-listed Global Call proposals