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Issues in Educational Research, 2021, Vol 31(3), 854-870.
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The elusiveness of a sense of place-belonging: One student's struggle on a diverse South African campus

Adré le Roux
University of the Free State, South Africa

Emma Groenewald
Sol Plaatje University, South Africa

Students bring their own unique stories, shaped by history, culture and language, to the higher education context. Developing a sense of place-belonging on a diverse university campus is intrinsically intertwined with the intersectionality between race, ethnicity, gender and language. This study uses narrative inquiry to understand one student's struggle to navigate a sense of place-belonging over four years on a diverse university campus. Although the study depicts a young South African student's unique narratives, the findings tell a story that knows no geographical boundaries. The persistence of barriers of difference continues to position students in terms of inclusion and exclusion networks, and for many, the development of a sense of place-belonging remains elusive. The findings reveal that shared values enable intra-group cohesion, cross-cutting barriers of difference and the navigation of a sense of belonging. However, within the bigger university context, social positioning along a single power axis complicates relationships across racial and cultural differences and, by implication, the development of place-belonging. Trying to negotiate collective values in the presence of self-constructed boundaries of difference is an exercise that often holds grandiose transformation plans captive on the level of disillusionment. Instead, central to enabling a holistic experience of embeddedness for all students is deconstructing barriers of difference aimed at co-constructing transformation as a collective enterprise.
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Authors: Adré le Roux PhD is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Her research interests centre on teacher education, identity politics and issues related to teaching for social and eco justice.
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6620-4557
Email: lerouxad@ufs.ac.za

Emma Groenewald PhD is a lecturer in the School of Education at Sol Plaatje University, Kimberley, South African. She specialises in narrative identity construction of students and social justice issues in higher education.
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6342-3145
Email: Emma.Groenewald@spu.ac.za
Please cite as: Le Roux, A. & Groenewald, E. (2021). The elusiveness of a sense of place-belonging: One student's struggle on a diverse South African campus. Issues in Educational Research, 31(3), 854-870. http://www.iier.org.au/iier31/le-roux.pdf

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Created 30 September 2021. Last correction: 30 September 2021. Website: Roger Atkinson [rjatkinson@bigpond.com]