Is it possible to have a world without “us” and “them”?

Boundaries, Membership & Belonging


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

The Boundaries, Membership & Belonging program explores ways to create and empower groups without falling back on ideas that produce pernicious divisions and hierarchies.

As migration and globalization weaken traditional boundaries around the world, many people are searching for a sense of belonging and are staking claims to membership. Recent political events show that if a new, inclusive sense of "we" is not developed, people may turn instead to appeals based on exclusionary boundaries of ethnicity, religion and class.

The program brings together leading social scientists and political and legal theorists who will collaborate to make sense of membership politics. They ask whether we can re-draw boundaries in a way that is inclusive without losing solidarity and the possibility of collective action. In short, why membership matters in a globalizing world.

Founded in: 2019

CIFAR Director:
Kate Geddie

Fellows & Advisors

Program Directors

W. Thomas Boyce
Irene Bloemraad
Program Co-Director

Irene Bloemraad is a political sociologist who studies how immigrants become incorporated into political bodies and the consequences of their presence on politics and understandings of membership.

Marla Sokolowski
Will Kymlicka
Program Co-Director

Will Kymlicka is a political theorist deeply engaged with real-world problems.