ERG SES D 10, Migration and Education
Following Derrida’s and Laclau’s approach for meaning deconstruction (e.g., Derrida, 1985; Laclau & Mouffe, 1985), I aim at understanding the phenomenon of school failure by deconstructing it through the reflection of South-North migration, and reconstructing it with contributions from the studies about intersectionality. The idea that school failure is related to oppression, domination and discrimination is not new (see, for instance, Dubet & Martucelli, 1998; Reay, 2010). The same relations are found in the experience of being an immigrant from the Global South into the Global North (e.g., Delanty et al., 2011).
My research builds on the concept of intersectionality (see Crenshaw, 1989, 1993) as an analytical framework to study school failure. Intersectionality sustains the idea that different aspects of an individual or a group are not mutually exclusive. Multiple individual or collective aspects, or traits, intersect to create a whole that is distinct from each of the isolated components of the individual or the group’s identity. Intersectionality, thus, describes overlapping or intersecting social identities (e.g., ethnicity and gender) and their relation to systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. However, instead of solely investigating different aspects of the identity of a particular group and how they intersect, I study the intersections of two different phenomena – school failure and South-North migration – to expand the spectacles in the exploration of the first phenomenon. This research, therefore, renders another perspective to comprehend school failure by deconstructing it through the life experience of being ‘different’, ‘other’, ‘outsider’.
Both phenomena are based on objectivities and subjectivities. In the objective dimension, they encompass indicators, classifications, bureaucracy, which are manifested, for instance, by visa and language skills (or their lacking) in the migration case, and by school records and achievements in the educational trajectory. The objectivity, however, is punctured by one’s own experience of failure, which could incorporate bullying, depression, anxiety, stress, isolation, exclusion. Thus, the objective and the subjective dimensions of both phenomena cannot be separated.
Bourdieu’s ideas of cultural (and school) capital, habitus, and the dominant and arbitrary conditions of the social space provide a valuable framework for such investigation (e.g., Bourdieu, 1986, 1995, 1998; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1970). The school failure, as presented by Bourdieu, is a result of the incompatibility between cultural background of the pupil and the school culture, which privileges the dominant groups. A similar logic could be applied to migration when the original culture is incompatible with the culture of the host country. Additionally, it is likely that symbolic violence is used in both cases. Bourdieu, however, does not take into account the coloniality immersed in social relations. Thus, I incorporate the coloniality of power and post-colonial discourses about ‘otherness’ (e.g., Quijano, 2000; Spivak, 1994) to compose the theoretical frame of my research. I also take into account discussions on identity and belonging (e.g., Giddens, 1999).
My research questions are: 1) to which extent can we use the concept of intersectionality to study two different phenomena?; 2) what is the actual situation of school failure in Brazil and how is it perceived by school actors?; 3) which subsidies does the ‘otherness’ experienced by an immigrant from the Global South in the Global North offer to comprehend school failure?; 4) how can school failure be reconstructed upon its intersectionality with South-North migration?
I study school failure in a context which is remarkably unequal and where this phenomenon is manifested by low pupil’s achievements, and high rates of retention, dropout and age-grade distortion. Brazil is the empirical case for my analysis, not only because the phenomenon of school failure is exacerbated by the striking social inequality in that country, but also due to its colonial tradition. As mentioned before, I investigate school failure through the reflection on the experiences of people who migrated from the Global South to the Global North. I analyze the experiences of people from Africa, Asia and Latin America who migrated to the Nordic European countries. I combine different methods and sources of data in this research. First I map school failure in Brazil using quantitative data collected by the Brazilian national and educational census. Then, I analyze the data I collected through interviews (n=28) and observations (eight weeks) with Brazilian school actors. I employ qualitative content analysis (see Schreier, 2012) to explore the interview data, whereas the observations shed light on data interpretation and findings. Finally, I add voices other than the academic from African, Asian and Latin American researchers based in European universities, speaking from an immigrant position (n=15). I analyze their discourses and make use of ‘juxta’ (see Silova et al., 2017) to weave the text.
The analysis is still in progress. The preliminary findings show that the identity of individuals undergoing failure, either school failure or problems as a Southern immigrant trying to adapt to a Northern country, are unstable and volatile. Uncertainty permeates their imaginaries. They experience confidence and security when they find themselves ‘home’, meaning their community, their neighborhood or their intimacy. The main difference between school failure and the oppression, domination and discrimination sensed in the immigrant situation is that the pupil has a chance to get out of the school environment for a while every day, whereas escaping from the environment perceived as incompatible may not happen so often to the immigrant. This research deals with exclusion and inclusion issues. Inclusion has become one of the main goals of education. However, school failure is a phenomenon of exclusion, not only in education, but it reflects other social exclusions as well as permeates other social settings, aggravating the prevalent excluding conditions. This study entails distinct considerations about school failure and South-North migration. It offers clues to enlarge the comprehension of school failure, which may contribute to limiting exclusion within education.
Bourdieu, P. (1998) La domination masculine. Paris: Liber. Bourdieu, P. (1995) Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge University Press. Bourdieu, P. (1986) The forms of capital. In: Richardson, J. (ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood, pp. 241-258. Bourdieu, P.; Passeron, J-C. (1970) La Reproduction. Éléments pour une théorie du système d'enseignement. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit. Crenshaw, K. (1991) Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review, Vol. 43, n. 6, pp. 1241-1299. Crenshaw, K. (1989) Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, Vol. 1, n. 8, pp. 139-167. Delanty, G.; Wodak, R.; Jones, P. (2011) Identity, Belonging and Migration. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Derrida, J. (1985) Letter to a Japanese Friend. In: Wood, D.; Bernasconi, R. (eds) Derrida and Différance. Warwick: Parousia Press, pp. 1-5. Dubet, F.; Martucelli, D. (1998) En la escuela: sociología de la experiencia escolar. Buenos Aires: Losada. Giddens, A. (1999) Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modem Age. Oxford: Polity Press. Laclau, E.; Mouffe, C. (1985) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. London & New York: Verso. Quijano, A. (2000) Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America. Nepantla: Views from South, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp. 533-580. Reay, D. (2010) Sociology, Social Class and Education. In: Apple, M. W.; Ball, S. J.; Gandin, L. A. (eds.) The Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Education. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 396-404. Schreier, M. (2012) Qualitative Content Analysis in Practice. London: SAGE. Silova, I.; Millei, Z.; Piattoeva, N. (2017) Interrupting the Coloniality of Knowledge Production in Comparative Education: Postsocialist and Postcolonial Dialogues after the Cold War. Comparative Education Review, v. 61, n. S1, pp. S74-S102. Spivak, G. C. (1994) Can the subaltern speak? In: Williams, P.; Chrisman, L. (eds.) Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: a Reader. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 66-111.
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