Community borderlands: Exploring liminal and contradictory experiences of belonging and wellbeing
Hudson, Kimberly Dree
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Community borderlands are spaces that are shifting, polyvocal, and multidimensional; they embody, transform, and resist systems and cultures of oppression, impacting the material realities and lived lives of their occupants and visitors alike. In this dissertation, I apply a borderlands framework to learn about lived experiences in relationship to three central concepts within social work: community, belonging, and wellbeing. This project integrates elements of transnational feminism, postcolonial studies, and borderland epistemology within a queer framework, employing theoretical pluralism to interpret stories of lived lives, material realities, and perceived wellbeing. Using critical narrative and feminist methodologies, I interviewed 12 adults in the Seattle area who identified in flexible, critical, or ambiguous ways across race, gender, and sexuality; most study participants self-identified as mixed race and queer. I explore articulations and intimations of liminality and belonging used by participants to make meaning of being in community and being well. Emerging from this analysis is a conceptual framework to understand belongingness in community borderlands and corresponding, contradictory experiences that enhance and detract from participants perceived wellbeing. Wellbeing itself, from a borderland perspective, is understood through participant positions on reclaiming healthy bodies, priority-setting within their communities, and critical self-reflection regarding the intentional creation of spaces and the unintentional replication of oppressive practices and discourses. This dissertation challenges the singular assumption that liminal status is a source of chronic stress and social disconnection that deteriorates wellbeing. Instead, I demonstrate that borderland experiences of community may provide a sense of connectedness that actually enhances perceived and actual wellbeing through increased resources, sense of safety, and belonging. However, I also highlight the complexity, ambiguity, and discontinuities of these relationships. This study suggests the application of a borderlands framework in social work scholarship, pedagogy, and practice, namely by informing existing and potential collaborative community efforts to address disparities and promote wellbeing.
- Social welfare