Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name



Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology


belonging, difference, intercultural relations, race, space, youth


George, Glynis




The objective of this study is to examine the way youth negotiate belonging in two priority neighbourhoods - Malvern and Chester Le in Toronto’s east-end. It asks how youth experience belonging and negotiate difference in ‘priority neighbourhoods’. In what ways does space shape belonging and difference? How do youth reproduce dominant scripts and rupture others in their quest for belonging in their communities? In contrast to the previous studies that are spatially decontextualized, I argue that neighbourhoods are the very sites where youth negotiate differences and connections as they engage with peers, families, friends and residents. The importance of space in studying youth’s sense of belonging is particularly valuable in Toronto where neighbourhoods are highly diverse and stratified. Building on prior investigations on belonging that tend to focus on attachment to the nation (Yuval-Davis 2006), in this dissertation I re-scale belonging to understand if and how neighbourhoods matter in the experiences of belonging. Is it possible to simultaneously feel excluded from the nation, but yet forge attachments to sub-national spaces? I use Yuval-Davis’s (2006) conceptualization of belonging and the politics of belonging and Bourdieu’s (1984) social field, habitus, and symbolic violence. I also draw on the literature that underscores the importance of space in negotiations of difference and experiences of belonging. I braid together a conceptual framework with the aim to achieve a more nuanced understanding of the ways power operates in the everyday context of ‘priority neighbourhoods’ and how processes of inclusion and exclusion and boundaries of belonging are demarcated. The approach attends to the interpretive dimensions of youth difference and belonging as situated within structural and discursive inequalities that shape their lives. I employ an ethnographic approach to argue that youth’s negotiations of difference and experiences of belonging are rooted in neighbourhood contexts. It is important to account for these local realities because they have both policy implications and allow for thinking about intercultural solidarity.