Weaving Christian Spirituality into Women’s Wellness: Narratives from the African Diaspora in Canada

  • Author / Creator
    Ayo, Nike Y
  • This research highlights the significant role spirituality plays in how a group of African diasporic women in Canada understand and experience wellness in their daily lives. The central research question that I pose is: How do Christian African diasporic women in Canada make sense of and experience the interweaving of spirituality and wellness in their daily lives? Wellness as a construct emerged following World War II to challenge and offer an alternative to traditional biomedical views of health as not merely the absence of disease (Panelli & Tipa, 2007). Generally, wellness has been understood to be a highly integrated, synergistic, multidimensional concept that exists along a continuum rather than as an end state (Adams, Bezner, Drabb, Zambarano, & Steinhardt, 2000; Harari, Waehler, & Rogers, 2005; Miller & Foster, 2010; Roscoe, 2009). Since then there has been an extensive amount of literature that has focused on defining and measuring wellness using various constructs and quantitative psychometric scales (Roscoe, 2009). However, despite the vast research that has gone into conceptualizing and measuring wellness, there has been little empirical research examining the lived experiences of wellness and how the various dimensions of wellness may be interrelated (Roscoe, 2009). Utilizing Roscoe’s (2009) seven dimensional holistic model of wellness, which entails social, physical, emotional, intellectual, occupational, spiritual, and environmental components, my study provides an empirical qualitative investigation of how the spiritual dimension is integrated into the broader experiences of wellness as a whole. This examination captures the rich background, depth, and meaning of such experiences in the everyday lives of Christian African diasporic women in Canada. Because such experiences do not exist within a vacuum, I also highlight the important role of diaspora in shaping the women’s lived experiences. Faist’s (2010) model of diasporas, as consisting of three key variables—reason for migration, transnational connections and activities, and settlement abroad—also guides my analysis of the context of the women’s lived experiences. I use a narrative methodological approach to structure my research and in doing so construct two research stories/narratives utilizing an amalgamation of participants’ words derived from the transcribed one-on-one interviews conducted. The first narrative illustrates the women’s journey within the African diaspora and the second highlights how their experiences of wellness are inseparable from their Christian faith. The women in this study, while maintaining a certain level of transnationality, have settled very well in Canada and have established it as home. This is evident through both their words and their emotional and psychosocial sentiments about life in Canada as well as their attainment of their intellectual and occupational goals in their new homeland. Spirituality proved to be a major positive force woven into the wellness experiences of diasporic women. While they understood wellness to encompass Roscoe’s various dimensions of the term, their faith had a significant influence on how they experienced each of these dimensions. The findings and analysis from this study help to redress the paucity of research on the lived experiences of wellness as well as the experiences of African diasporic women in Canada. Thus, this research will be beneficial for those engaged in the settlement and wellbeing of this particular immigrant group as well as those interested in the fields of wellness studies and the African diaspora in Canada, particularly in terms of the role that faith can play in members’ of this community lives.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2016
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Bremault-Phillips, Suzette (Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine)
    • Markula, Pirkko (Physical Education and Recreation)
    • Okeke-Ihejirika, Philomina (Department of Women's and Gender Studies)
    • Glover, Troy (Recreation and Leisure Studies)
    • McDermott, Lisa (Physical Education and Recreation)