Reclaiming kith: weaving belongingness into community

Liz Ellis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter draws on the data and analysis from a small inclusive research project with a group of co-researchers living in a rural area in the UK. All the co-researchers identify as having learning difficulties. The research aimed to explore how living in rural spaces had an impact on the co-researchers’ lives, particularly how it related to feelings of belonging. As the research project progressed and the data produced by the co-researchers was analysed, themes around belonging, community and mutuality began to come to the fore. As the connections the co-researchers had with their diverse communities were analysed, what seemed like a missing category began to emerge.

It was the need to find some way of describing the intergenerational ‘knowingness’ that seemed to provide one co-researcher in particular with a deep sense of being embedded within his community, which led me to reclaim the notion of ‘kith’. By extracting kith from its usual conjunction with kin that has, over time, subsumed kith’s original meaning, I disinterred the archaic meanings of kith as they related to homelands, tribe and especially being known. This then helped to make sense of the analysis of the connections the co-researchers had with their geographical and social spaces as interdependent and rhizomatic all the whilst rooted within local neighbourhoods and the people who lived there.

The chapter therefore looks at the way rurality intersects with a number of themes that emerged from the data and explores the diverse experiences of the co-researchers with a particular focus on two, Mark and John, whose differing life experiences and situations will be contrasted. There is analysis around four interconnected areas, specifically:

• The contested meanings of friendship, both theoretically and how it is experienced and defined by the co-researchers thus challenging some previously held assumptions. The chapter explores how the co-researchers make and maintain their friendships and other meaningful relationships through employment, walking the local territory (being a rural flâneur) and the use of ‘chat’ as a form of social ‘glue’.

• The role of family, particularly within the context of promoting feelings of belonging and security will be discussed and demonstrate that the ways families support the independence of the co-researchers is varied and indeed variable. This will especially explore how having family locally can help to create kithship with proximal others.

• The proximal relationships with others and the connections the co-researchers had with their wider communities, leading me to try to reclaim the lost meaning of ‘kith’. These proximal others are those not identified as family nor are they currently identified as being friends, but their status is recognised as being in flux and full of potential.

• The role of ‘kith’ in enhancing feelings of belongingness and connection with a community and how the lack of it, even in a small village, leads the inhabitants to engage in labour aimed at re/creating the rural idyll and forms of kith which are seen to typify rural society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDisability and Rurality
Subtitle of host publicationIdentity, Gender and Belonging
EditorsKaren Soldatic, Kelley Johnson
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781315577340
ISBN (Print)9781472454843
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameInterdisciplinary Disability Studies


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