Experiences of (Not) Belonging among Higher Education Students from Nondominant Ethnic Backgrounds

Brianna L. Kennedy, Suzanne N. Melfor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Students from nondominant backgrounds face challenges in educational contexts related to finding support and having a sense of belonging. In this study, we focus primarily on race and ethnicity in shaping experiences of nondominance. Using a theoretical framework based upon critical race theory and sense of belonging, we interviewed ten young adults from nondominant backgrounds about their educational experiences in primary, secondary, and tertiary education in the Netherlands. Findings indicate challenges related to interactions with White peers, low teacher support and expectations, and discontinuities between home and school cultures. Sources of support included peers from nondominant backgrounds, religion and faith communities, and family. Implications suggest that teachers and leaders in educational institutions develop their own, and their dominant students’, understandings of nondominant students’ experiences. Additional arguments for the need to focus on race in the European context and for the affordances of interpretive qualitative inquiry approaches are included.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-91
Number of pages23
JournalEducation and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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