Immigrants' Sense of Belonging in Diverse Neighbourhoods and Everyday Spaces

Title: Immigrants' Sense of Belonging in Diverse Neighbourhoods and Everyday Spaces
Authors: Xia, Lily
Date: 2020-05-22
Abstract: In this thesis, I examine issues of immigrant belonging, such as feelings of being accepted, recognized, and trusted, as well as having a sense of community and support. The focus is on the context of the neighbourhood in shaping immigrant sense of belonging. Neighbourhoods in Canadian cities are the locus of multiple structural forces – among these the provision of housing, services, infrastructure, and community that contribute to meeting everyday needs and feeling included, but also of discrimination, marginalization, and exclusion through processes of enclosure, neoliberal urban policies, gentrification, and revanchism. In my thesis, I use spaces of encounter as the theoretical framework to examine immigrants’ sense of belonging. Through narratives of belonging and not belonging, I aim to capture the full complexity of immigrants’ sense of belonging. To do so, I adopted a collaborative qualitative approach combining multiple methods, including critical ethnography, descriptive Census data analysis, media analysis, and photovoice interviews with 13 immigrant men and women from diverse countries of origin. The neighbourhood selected for this study is Ledbury-Heron Gate, a low-income, immigrant neighbourhood in Ottawa. Subject to stigmatization and mass evictions, Ledbury-Heron Gate is a contentious space and the site of struggles between residents, mainstream media, developers, and city officials. Yet, many participants have found amenities, mutual support, and solidarity in the neighbourhood that they have come to appreciate and value. I present a narrative of Ledbury-Heron Gate that is not portrayed elsewhere, a complex and sometimes contradictory story of belonging and not belonging. My findings reveal that sense of belonging is not simple, and there can be simultaneous feelings of comfort and recognition combined with resentment and fear. I emphasize the participants’ accounts of agency and knowledge among the residents of iii Ledbury-Heron Gate and their ability to create spaces where they can build community and solidarity. Yet, they encounter challenges such as (in)accessibility, discrimination, and disinvestment. Based on the narratives that I will recount in this thesis, it will become clear that the participants are keenly aware of the barriers that they face; yet they refuse to let these determine their sense of belonging and support for one another. Their efforts, with proper structural support from various levels of government, local institutions, and NGOs, hold the potential to transform spaces of encounter into spaces of empowerment and connection. Their complex and at times contradicting narratives of sense of belonging and experiences of exclusion show the nuances that come from being an immigrant trying to belong to a place that is not always inclusive.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -