American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 50, Issue 1–2, pp 257–270 | Cite as

Counterspaces: A Unit of Analysis for Understanding the Role of Settings in Marginalized Individuals’ Adaptive Responses to Oppression

  • Andrew D. Case
  • Carla D. Hunter
Original Paper


Research and theory on the intervening variables that enable individuals who experience marginalization and oppression to achieve well-being have historically relied on an individual level of analysis. Yet, there is a growing body of literature that highlights the roles that contexts play in facilitating processes that result in wellness among marginalized individuals. This paper proposes a conceptual framework that highlights a specific type of setting, referred to as “counterspaces,” which promotes the psychological well-being of individuals who experience oppression. Counterspaces are theorized to enhance well-being by challenging deficit-oriented societal narratives concerning marginalized individuals’ identities. The conceptual frame proposed here suggests that “challenging” can occur through at least three processes: (1) narrative identity work, (2) acts of resistance, and (3) direct relational transactions. This paper articulates each of these challenging processes. Additionally, the utility of using the Counterspaces framework for thinking critically about and investigating how settings—and the transactional processes that unfold within them—are associated with the promotion of psychological wellness for various marginalized populations is discussed.


Counterspaces Oppression Resistance Coping Adaptive responding Settings 



We are grateful to Nicole E. Allen and Julian Rappaport for their useful feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Society for Community Research and Action 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA

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