Redefining Social Problems pp 101-113

Part of the Perspectives in Social Psychology book series (PSPS)

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Positive Marginality

The Experience of Black Women Leaders
  • Althea Smith


The concept of marginality has a long history of investigation in the sociological literature. For example, Stonequist (1937, p. xv) introduced the concept of the marginal man as “one whom fate has condemned to live in two societies and in two not merely different but antagonistic cultures.” Classical sources of marginality in America have included race (e.g., Afro-American), religion (e.g., American Jews), age (e.g., adolescence), and ethnic origin (e.g., Italian-Americans) (Park, 1950; Stonequist, 1936). More contemporary definitions include those persons on the border of two groups or systems (e.g., Wright & Wright, 1972). Marginality has been and still is characterized as producing negative psychological effects for the person caught between two reference groups because of the differing values, goals, and norms. In general, it has been assumed that marginality leads to tension, conflict, and ambivalence, thereby causing the marginal person to feel anxious, confused, and alienated.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Althea Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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