Examining the Dynamics of Belonging and Alienation in Higher Education Through Photovoice

Josephine Cornell*, Shose Kessi, Kopano Ratele

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (SciVal)


    The higher education system globally is inherently inequitable. Discriminatory practices and oppressive power dynamics are particularly prevalent in the South African higher education landscape which is characterised by a legacy of colonialism and apartheid. As a result, although students from a wide range of backgrounds are increasingly participating in higher education, many students who do not fit the dominant status quo question their belonging within these spaces. Students? experiences of alienation within higher education can have profoundly negative physical, pyscho-social and education outcomes. However, students also display agency in negotiating the exclusionary institutional cultures within their universities and succeeding despite these experiences. Photovoice methodology can be a useful tool for critiquing and highlighting such agentic practices, and for foregrounding the voices of students. In this research brief, we reflect on two photovoice projects that sought to examine the complexity of students? experiences of belonging and alienation in higher education in South Africa. Our findings illustrate that although students may experience alienation on campus, they may also create spaces of belonging, and ?speak back? to, and challenge the exclusions inherent to campus life.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)325-330
    Number of pages6
    JournalHealth Promotion Practice
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 14 Mar 2022


    • photovoice
    • higher education
    • South Africa
    • students
    • belonging
    • alienation
    • mental health
    • agency
    • race
    • visual methods


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