I am so thrilled that my journal article–Identity, Belonging and Agency: A Transformative Development Framework for Global Africans/Black Peoples is published and live on the Journal of Transformative Education with Sage. It represents lessons learns from reflections on my short story and flash fiction collections, Identities, Ancestries and Destinies (Available on Amazon).

It is an on open access article so see the full article and download it here. Excerpts below.


1. Who am I?

2. Where do I belong?

3. What am I called to?

These three questions represent the narrative shifts that are the outcomes of the Identity/Belonging/Agency (IBA) transformative development framework. The IBA framework emerged from the author’s critical reflections on fiction reading and dialogues in 12+ community conversations to explore everyday global African/Black experiences. It responds to the self-inquiry: How do global Africans/Black peoples experience developmental transformation in the context of social marginality? It conceptualizes that the key developmental tasks of global Africans/Black peoples lies in claiming identity through differentiation from dominant narratives of marginality, belonging through locating self-in-society and community, and agency through a focus on self-in-transcendence. The IBA framework is proposed as core to understanding how global Africans/Black peoples, and perhaps other socially constructed racialized groups, can choose to move from marginality to personal as well as social transformation through their agency.

…This article hones in on the use of fiction reading as a doorway to transformative learning for global Africans/Black peoples who experience social marginality. It was prompted by the experience of fiction readings paired with community dialogues at a series of short story book reading events between 2017 and 2022. As a result of my critical reflections on the book reading and ensuing dialogues in which community members described the impact of the experience on them, I conceptualized a developmental framework proposed here, the Identity/Belonging/Agency (IBA) framework. The proposed framework describes the transformative development process global Africans/Black peoples may experience in the context of critically reflecting on their socially marginalized identities. It proposes a response to the inquiry question that emerged for me during the book readings and community dialogues: How do global Africans/Black peoples experience developmental transformation in the context of social marginality?

I first outline below my standpoint in the context of this paper, which is pivotal to the critical and analytic reflexivity that I turned to. I then chronicle my critical reflections, and observations of community members’ descriptions of their experiences, which led me to document my interpretations of narrative shifts about identity, belonging and agency. These narrative shifts underpin the proposed IBA framework. Taking inspiration from analytic autoethnography (Anderson, 2006), which integrates an analytical agenda and commitment to theorizing alongside self-reflexivity, I then outline how the IBA framework may align and fit within existing theories and frameworks with similar developmental goals such as constructive-developmental human development, liberatory transformative learning lenses and ultimately Afrocentric developmental perspectives. As a result, I describe IBA as a transformative development framework because it is rooted in transformative learning and human development theories. It is Afrocentric, because it centers the experiences of global Africans and Black peoples in the diaspora first and foremost. By global Africans, I mean that community of peoples born on or off the African continent who live a significant part of their lives in global spaces, usually but not necessarily first or second-generation African migrants. By Black peoples, I mean generational African descendants of diverse backgrounds and identities who identify with a Black diasporan identity. I end with concluding thoughts on the limitations and contributions of this process and proposed framework.

Standpoint: Coming to Short Story Fiction Writing and Reading

I am a Black woman who was born in Germany and spent my first few years in Europe. I spent my formative and schooling years, including some post-secondary education, in Sierra Leone, West Africa, the country of my lineage. I then immigrated to Canada as a result of civil war, but also because I have Canadian-born siblings. This made me both a refugee and a first-generation immigrant. From this ground, I have experienced (acutely in the context of Sierra Leone’s civil war), the global world system’s oppression and colonization/neo-colonization of Africa and Africans as well as the experience of being racial other in the diaspora.

In addition, I have long been drawn to the interpretivism schools of thought—understanding experience—for knowledge-building and knowledge-creation. Early in my scholarly journey, I was drawn to ideas such as:

• “what is most personal is most general” (Rogers, 1970)

• “it is the job of good sociology to reveal the public issues inherent in troubles personally felt” (Mills, 1959).

• “identifying possible inconsistencies and inner contradictions is a powerful way to examine our own inconsistencies and inner contradictions” (Argyris, 2005).

This led me to explorations and qualitative research grounded in narrative inquiry, autoethnography and lived experience research. A desire to reach beyond the academy and “write for the public” further led me back to creative writing, a craft I had dabbled with and won prizes for since grade school. I found myself drifting consistently to creative fiction writing as a means to express my inner reflections and sensemaking of experiences of marginality. I also turned to fiction over creative non-fiction to expand beyond the bounds of my own experiences through a diversity of characters and to engage the imaginal of what could be.

As a result, I wrote and released Identities (Gilpin-Jackson, 2017), Ancestries (Gilpin-Jackson, 2019), and Destinies (Gilpin-Jackson, 2022), over a 6-year period between 2017 and 2022. The first two were short story collections about global African/Black experiences and the third was a flash fiction collection focused on the same content and audience. I refer to them collectively as “the fiction narratives” throughout. After the release of each book, I hosted several book signings, community conversations and workshops (collectively, over a dozen community dialogues) in which groups of global Africans/Black peoples engaged in conversation with the stories and each other. The seed for the IBA framework was sown in these community dialogues as my observations raised the inquiry question: How do global Africans/Black peoples experience developmental transformation in the context of social marginality?

Over the journey of hosting book signings, I found myself shifting from fiction writer and reading host to a facilitator of transformative learning by engaging in questions and dialogue to explore personal disorientations and social critiques arising during the community dialogues. I further took on an autoethnographic stance by documenting my reflections after each event, as my intention to engage in deeper understanding solidified. This analytic reflexivity represented an intentional shift that entailed “self-conscious introspection guided by a desire to better understand both self and others through examining one’s actions and perceptions in reference to and dialogue with those of others” (Anderson, 2006, p.382). Thus, my critical self-reflections as well as reflections on participants’ reactions and dialogues and the analysis presented are fully informed by my own subjectivity and visibility as a global African/Black person alongside participants in the community dialogues…

The IBA framework developmental shifts and outcomes that I collated over time from these experiences and reflections are summarized in Table 1 below.

IBA Framework Developmental OutcomeDevelopmental TaskFROM Subject:To Object:Outcome Narrative Construction
IdentityDifferentiated SelfWhere are you from?Who am I?Marginality as a site of resistance and transformation
BelongingSelf-in-SocietyWhat are you?Where do I belong?choose to:…live in the margins, in the center or in both
AgencySelf-in-TranscendenceWho are you?What am I called to?I do what I do…to work for change and social justice…to honour my ancestors and for the generations to come…
Table 1. IBA Framework Developmental and Narrative Construction Shifts.

See full article and download it here.