07 SES 03 A, Citizenship Education Part 2
Paper Session continued from 07 SES 02 A
Luxembourg is home to a high proportion of immigrants from Europe and beyond – as of 2018, nearly 50% of all people living in Luxembourg were ‘foreigners’ (STATEC 2018). This same population dynamic is reflected amongst school-age children such that there is a significant level of linguistic, cultural, and religious diversity within Luxembourg schools. Linguistic diversity in particular is seen as causing difficulties and posing challenges to school success that must be urgently addressed. Thus, in recent years, Luxembourg has called for new approaches to and policies around language teaching and learning in schools. To this end, there has been an explosion of research and discourse around multilingualism, school success, and related issues in academia and the public sphere.
There has been little discussion, however, of other forms of difference, such as cultural and religious difference. When these appear, it is often as a problem to be erased. For example, in 2014, Luxembourg instituted a ban on face veils in public schools to “ensure the neutrality of schools in a multi-faith environment”, even as public schools continued to provide Catholic religious classes until late 2017 (Luxembourg Times 2014). This debate can be read “within the context of a trend towards a culturalisation of citizenship”, where belonging (whether in the nation or classroom) is increasingly defined in cultural terms that call for the erasure of certain marked forms of difference for individuals to ‘fit in’ in public spaces (Moors 2009:394).
Further, much existing literature suggests that perceptions of language competence, language ideologies, and language policies are never only about language (c.f. Eisenlohr 2015, Fader 2008, Woolard 1998) and that many children are framed as linguistically disadvantagedor failing based in large part on non-language factors, including social positioning, gender, and cultural or racial identities (c.f. Ogbu 1999, Flores & Rosa 2015). Despite indications of the important roles of other modes of difference, however, there has been little discussion of how these impact children’s school experiences in Luxembourg.
My work explores some of the discourses around diversity, difference, and belonging that intersect to shape the educational trajectories of children by examining how these issues play out in the lives of Jewish children and families in Luxembourg. For several reasons, the Luxembourg Jewish community serves as an ideal ‘case’ for examining these issues. First, multiple discourses circulate within the community around issues of belonging, (in)visibility, identity, and when and how one is or is not part of the majority and what that means – as Brink-Danan (2011:448) argues, part of learning to be Jewish is learning not only “about different ways of being, but knowing in which contexts one should (and should not) perform difference”. Second, the community is very aware of constructions of difference and, due to various social factors (Buckser 2011), is in many ways able to negotiate when to be (in)visible, when to engage in or resist a kind of “self-nomination” (Stratton 2000). And third, in addition to these discourses about difference and belonging in public spaces, the Luxembourg Jewish community is very diverse and is grappling with internal debates around language, culture, learning, and belonging.
To explore these issues, I am asking several broad questions with a focus on children and educational spaces. First, what is it to be Jewish in Luxembourg and how do children in particular learn what it is to be Jewish in Luxembourg? Second, how is Jewishness variously constructed, called upon, and enacted by different people across different contexts, especially educational contexts? And third, where and how does Jewishness intersect with various identities and forms of belonging and what are the implications of these intersections?
The questions I am asking and the theoretical frames I have employed thus far in my research have certain implications for my methods and methodology. First, the issues I seek to explore are processual; second, these questions involve the details, actions, and interactions of everyday life; and third, in order to address these issues, I need to have access to these interactions as they unfold and as people work to make sense of those unfoldings. To this end, I am undertaking an ethnography. Ethnography, more than any other methodology, will allow me to get beyond universals and consider the specificity of people’s everyday experiences and to call attention to “the political stakes that make up the ordinary” (Biehl 2013:574). Thus far, I have been in the field for about one year. I have been attending organized events, like services in the synagogues, lectures, memorials, and so on, and often drive to and from these events with a community member or family. I have been sitting in on Talmud Torah classes at the Orthodox synagogue in Luxembourg City and co-teaching Talmud Torah classes at the liberal synagogue in Esch-sur-Alzette. I have participated in Chabad events, such as Shabbat dinners and parties. I have also managed to meet a few people who do not participate in organized community life and have interviewed them. I have done some babysitting, gone out for meals with families and individual members, and generally spent much of this time getting to know the community, its shape, dynamics, and borders. I have gone into some of the children’s schools for various events, such as Hanukkah parties and fieldtrips to an exhibit about Anne Frank. I have also been collecting materials, such as advertisements, announcements, educational materials, photographs of objects in people’s homes, etc. And finally, during the summer of 2018, I engaged in some archival research and interviews specifically around a Jewish museum project currently underway in Luxembourg. In the coming months, I plan to undertake interviews with adult community members and families, possibly including drawing or photo elicitation for children in family interviews. I will also continue participating in community life as I have thus far. Ultimately, I plan to withdraw from the field at the end of June 2019.
Based on my fieldwork to date, I have reached the following tentative conclusions, though these may shift as I complete my fieldwork. First, it seems that difference is in many ways seen as a ‘problem’ in Luxembourgish schools. Second, language and linguistic diversity are not the only ‘problems’ impacting school success in Luxembourg. Rather discourses of belonging and certain social differences play key roles in “constructing individuals’ specific positions…[and] social locations” within the classroom (Yuval-Davis 2006:201). These also intersect with language ideologies and impact the ways in which language is seen as a hindrance (or help). Third, I argue that many Jewish children seem to be variously aware of the advantages of being able to ‘blend in’ with the majority and the potential disadvantages of being marked as different in a socially significant way in public and parochial (Wessendorf 2014) spaces. Further, many of these children make context-based decisions about when and how to identify, perform, or otherwise call upon their Jewishness and many experience feelings of unease, precarity (Hinkson 2017), and insecurity when they are interpellated as Jews by someone else, such as a teacher or non-Jewish classmate. As I complete my fieldwork, I will continue to develop these arguments and draw further conclusions. By the end of my time in the field, I expect to have a deeper sense of the textures meanings, and practices of Jewishness in Luxembourg; to better understand how various discourses and institutions, particularly schools, construct difference and diversity; to see how children navigate and negotiate their multiple identities and how this process intersects with constructions of difference and diversity in educational settings; and how these processes come together to shape school interactions, teachers’ perceptions of students, and children’s school experiences and success overall.
Biehl, João. 2013. “Ethnography in the Way of Theory.” Cultural Anthropology 28(4): 573-597. Brink-Danan, Marcy. 2011. “Dangerous Cosmopolitanism: Erasing Difference in Istanbul.” Anthropological Quarterly 84 (2): 439-473. Buckser, Andrew. 2011. “On and Off the Margin: The Anthropology of Contemporary Jewry.” Religion and Society: Advances in Research 2: 72–89. Eisenlohr, Patrick. 2015. “Mediating Disjunctures of Times: Ancestral Chronotopes in Ritual and Media Practices.” Anthropological Quarterly 88 (2): 281 – 304. Fader, Ayala. 2008. “Reading Jewish signs: The socialization of multilingual literacies among Hasidic women and girls in Brooklyn, New York.” Text & Talk 28 (5): 621 – 641. Flores, Nelson & Rosa, Jonathan. 2015. “Undoing Appropriateness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and Language Diversity in Education.” Harvard Educational Review 85 (2): 149 – 171. Hinkson, Melinda. 2017. “Precarious Placemaking.” Annual Review of Anthropology 46: 49 – 64. Luxembourg Times. 2014. Burqa ban at Luxembourg public schools. Luxembourg Times, June 21, 2014. https://luxtimes.lu/archives/16649-burqa-ban-at-luxembourg-public-schools. Moors, Annelies. 2009. “The Dutch and the face-veil: The politics of discomfort.” Social Anthropology 17(4): 393-408. Ogbu, John. 1999. “Beyond Language: Ebonics, Proper English, and Identity in a Black-American Speech Community.” American Educational Research Journal 36 (2): 147 – 184. Service Central de La Statistique et des Études Économiques – STATEC. 2018. Luxemburg in Zahlen 2018 [Luxembourg in numbers 2018]. Luxembourg: STATEC. https://statistiques.public.lu/catalogue-publications/luxembourg-en-chiffres/2018/luxemburg-zahlen.pdf Stratton, Jon. 2000. Coming out Jewish: Constructing Ambivalent Identities. London: Routledge. Vertovec, Steven & Wessendorf, Susanne (eds). 2010. The Multiculturalism Backlash: European Discourses, Policies and Practices. London; New York: Routledge. Wessendorf, Susanne. 2014. “’Being open, but sometimes closed’. Conviviality in a super-diverse London neighbourhood.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 17 (4): 392 – 405. Woolard, Kathryn. 1998. “Introduction: Language Ideology as a Field of Inquiry.” In Language Ideologies, edited by Bambi Schieffelin, Kathryn Woolard, & Paul Kroskrity, 3 – 50. New York: Oxford University Press. Yuval-Davis, Nira. 2006. "Belonging and the Politics of Belonging." Patterns of Prejudice 40(3): 197 – 214.
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