“Belonging”: Relocators Describe Their Motivations, Goals, and Experiences of Christian Community Development
Eccleston, Sara Michelle Perisho
This exploratory study examines the motivations and goals of relocators, Christian Community Development Association members who intentionally relocate to low-income urban neighborhoods for the purpose of community partnership. The purpose of this project is twofold: first, I seek to describe and explore the motivations, goals, and experiences of relocators, a population unknown to most scholars; and second, I seek to consider these findings from an explicitly critical perspective. Thus, I orient my study within feminist antiracism, employing Roman’s (1997) fantasies of redemptive identification as my theoretical framework, which suggests that whites tend to collapse differences among racial groups in an attempt to create (false) sameness among them, often resulting in the appropriation of others’ experiences, an implicit norming, a redemptive and heroic positioning, and an avoidance of systemic complicity. I collected qualitative data in 2010 from a snowball sample of 10 participants in Portland, Milwaukee, and Chicago via in-depth, semi-structured interviewing. Findings revealed that: (1) participants were primarily motivated by a religious conviction to personally respond to issues of poverty and injustice; (2) participants sought to belong in the neighborhood through shared experiences and personal relationships; and (3), participants described relocations as both a risk and a benefit. Moreover, critical analysis of these themes further suggests that relocators tended to: (1) explicitly resist a redemptive role while implicitly assuming a modeling position; (2) seek sameness through geographic proximity with limited attention to issues of power and difference; and (3) focus on individual-level interventions with virtually no references to macro-level change.