Defining Conditional Belonging: The Case of Female Science Fiction Fans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article offers a rigorous conceptualisation of an undeveloped sociological concept: conditional belonging. It implements and develops conditional belonging in the setting of everyday life by examining female fans of science fiction. Based on 30 in-depth interviews with female fans of Doctor Who and Star Wars, this study defines conditional belonging as a liminal state in which new members are constructed as a threatening ‘other’ and required to demonstrate conformity to the community. Having to align with values established by veteran members disrupts the ability of those who conditionally belong to perceive their identities as authentic. Conditional belonging is explored in offline and online settings, exposing the tactics used online by female fans to ensure their belonging. Through demonstrating the ways in which conditional belonging is cultivated and enforced, this article contributes to a nuanced understanding of belonging, not as a binary condition, but a multi-layered, complex one.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-887
Number of pages17
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. I also thank Dr Sophie Woodward, Professor Penny Tinkler, Professor Vanessa May, Professor Sarah Banet-Weiser, Professor Tally Katz-Gerro, Natalie-Anne Hall and Dr Owen Abbott for their helpful feedback throughout the various stages of the writing of this article. The author received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • authenticity
  • belonging
  • conditional belonging
  • fandom studies
  • female fans
  • identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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