Loneliness and belonging in narrative environments

Richard Vytniorgu, Fred Cooper, Charlotte Jones, Manuela Barreto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Loneliness and belonging are often framed as psychological states affecting individuals. Their family, friendship, psychological mindset, and acquaintance networks are seen as important factors shaping experiences of loneliness and belonging, but the role of place, culture, and institutional environments are often relegated to the periphery of attention. This article adopts the lens of narrative environment to highlight the importance of environments and cultures in storying experiences of loneliness and belonging, in this instance, among students enrolled at a UK university. Focusing especially on student accommodation and the university's links (or perceived lack thereof) with its locality and the university's infrastructure, we argue for the dialectic and reciprocal relationship between students and their environment in storying experiences of loneliness and belonging. Narrative environment, we argue, encapsulates the way in which some people negotiate a sense of belonging, moving the focus beyond individual psychology and immediate social networks, to the impact of institutional and environmental culture.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100938
JournalEmotion, Space and Society
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2023


  • Belonging
  • Higher education
  • Loneliness
  • Narrative environment
  • Student accommodation
  • Student experience
  • University
  • Wellbeing


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