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July 15, 2022 | Report

Moving from the Mainstream to the Margins: Lessons in Culture and Power


Ruby White Starr

Publication Date:


This article highlights the ways in which power is conceptualized, activated, and institutionalized in American culture. Drawing from research and the author’s experience within mainstream and culturally-specific organizations in the violence against women field, this article exposes the subtle, yet pervasive mechanisms that lead to the marginalization of culturally specific communities and smaller, typically culturally specific, community-based organizations. By design and unconsciously, researchers, mainstream organization, and leaders often perpetuate a system designed to localize research, evaluation, services and resources for white people, organizations and institutions. This occurs for example, when researchers center and elevate a “gold-standard” of evidence-based practices, research, and evaluation that share no frame of reference to those being “studied” and most effected. It also happens when organizations marginalize culturally specific community members and organizations by seeking their participation at the final stages rather than at the conception of projects. The author provides concrete recommendations that researchers, providers, and leaders can adopt to counteract institutional oppression and help move culturally-specific communities and organizations from the margins to the center.