07 SES 02 B, Social Justice: Refugee and Muslim Students
Many studies on literacy have revealed that children of U.S. Muslim immigrants engage in multiple literacies due to the expectations and roles they assume in their family and community. Similar to other immigrant children, children of Muslim immigrants such as the Yemeni Americans (Sarroub, 2005), Somali Americans (Bigelow, 2000; 2010; Ajrouch & Kusow, 2007) and from other ethnic backgrounds (Sirin & Fine, 2005; Khan, 2009, Sensoy & Stonebanks, 2009) often have to shoulder responsibilities as the “translator”, “reader”, “writer”, and “scribe” of their families especially when their parents are illiterate or have low level of print literacy.
In this paper, I revisit Freire’s (1998) notion of “trilogy of pedagogies”---“ oppression, hope, and freedom”- by re-conceptualizing several theories that have influenced much cross-cultural and comparative research and practice throughout the world, and synthesizing/connecting them to my work with Muslim adolescents in U.S. schools through a cross-cultural, critical narrative theoretical perspective.
Many comparative studies support the notion that immigrant children contribute to their families in a variety of tangible ways — by babysitting, translating, completing paperwork and sometimes, by working part time jobs that supplements the family income (Sarroub, 2005; Sirin & Fine, 2008; Bigelow, 2010). Immigrant children also become the family expert on the ways of the new society (Orellana, 2009). It is crucial for us to recognize that immigrant children across the globe shoulder different expectations at different age levels and they vary significantly from one cultural context to another. These expectations are often further intensified by the necessities generated by migration and dependent upon each family’s needs.
The literacy practices of children of Muslim immigrants are often hybridized and syncretized. In the U.K., research in London showed Muslim immigrant children engaged in hybridized literacy practice where different cultural forms interact in the same space. The children blended the knowledge learned at school into knowledge practiced at home and in the community that were reflected through play, dialogue, artifact creation (writing, drawing) and the identities they assumed when given a choice to do so (Kenner, 2004; Gregory, 2000; Wallace, 2008). They also created further hybridity through the making of texts, which represent their complex cultural and religious. Syncretism refers to a more complex process of hybridity, which results in the creation of new forms of practices with an emphasis on “the fluid and creative interaction of words, ideas, and practices to create a dynamic, fruitful and positive whole” (Gregory, 2004, p. 5). Gregory (2008) described how the Muslim immigrant children produced syncretic literacy practices when they assumed their identity as English language speakers and used the English language often mixed in with their native language(s) in their ‘play school’ games with their friends or siblings at home. Comparative studies on Muslim youth revealed that teens engage in diverse syncretic literacy practices especially in using multimodal literacies, narratives and technology to develop their ‘voices’ to talk back to the Islamophobia discourse and microaggressions that surrounds them daily (Sirin & Fine, 2005; Sensoy & Stonebanks, 2009).
Other studies that suggest that immigrant children engage in ‘glocal’ literacy practices, a description for the economic phenomena where people use local and global connections to adapt and adopt new literacies (Blake, 2004; Sarroub; 2008; Sirin & Fine, 2005). Through participating in global literacy practices, people create opportunities for interconnectedness by intertwining local and global cultural, social and academic knowledge and experiences. Hybridity and syncretism in immigrant children’s literacy and identity are distinctly visible in today’s contemporary world as a result of migration and technological advancements in travel, media and communication.
Ajrouch, K., & Kusow, A. (2007). Racial and religious contexts: Situational identities among Lebanese and Somali Muslim immigrants in North America. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30, 72-94. Bigelow, M. (2010). Mogadishu on the Mississippi: Language, racialized identity, and education in a new land. New York: Wiley-Blackwell. Blake, B.E. (2004). A culture of refusal: The lives and literacies of out-of-school adolescents. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishers. Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kenner, C. (2004). Living in simultaneous worlds: difference and integration in bilingual script learning. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 7(1), 43-61. Kincheloe, J., & McLaren, P. ( 2005). Rethinking critical theory and qualitative research. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (3rd Ed.) (pp. 303-342). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Langer, J.A. (2001). Beating the odds: Teaching middle and high school students to read and write well. American Educational Research Journal, 38 (4), 837-880. Orellana, M. F. (2009). Translating childhoods: Immigrant youth, language and culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Sarroub, L. K. (2005). All American Yemeni girls: Being Muslim in a public school. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Sensoy & Stonebanks, 2009; Sirin, S. R., & Fine, M. (2008). Muslim American youth: Understanding hyphenated identities through multiple methods. New York: New York University Press.
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