Date of Award

5-13-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Gertrude Tinker Sachs

Second Advisor

Michelle Zoss

Third Advisor

Wing Yi Chan

Fourth Advisor

David Stinson

Abstract

The prevailing discourses around refugees often serve to position them as ignorant, incapable, and needing to be assimilated into the dominant culture of receiving societies. The limited research devoted to refugees shows that they struggle in schools and on standardized tests of achievement, are underemployed, and live in poverty. Refugee women, in particular, often contend with multiple linguistic, gendered, and racialized forms of discrimination, as they navigate transnational spaces and lives in resettlement. However, this qualitative study sought to counter deficit discourses around refugee women in resettlement by critically investigating and illuminating their everyday lives and literacy practices. The participants were nine refugee women, aged 16 to 31, who engaged in an out-of-school book club over a six-month period.

Sociocultural, dialogic, poststructural, feminist, and transnational theories informed this study. Critical ethnographic approaches and New Literacy Studies perspectives influenced the research process and data gathering. Qualitative data were collected from audio and video recordings of book club meetings, meeting transcripts, and researcher field notes. The data were analyzed using qualitative coding and narrative methods.

The themes identified from the analysis were that participants (1) shaped and used the book club as a dialogic, border practice and space; (2) navigated and negotiated shifting and changing subjectivities and took up multi/plural identities; (3) used multiple languages and literacies as practices and resources; and (4) were living here-and-there, transnational and dialogic lives. The findings suggest that educators can foster refugee women’s English language learning and multiple literacies in three key ways: by creating learning spaces that are flexible, contingent, dialogic, and collaborative; by recognizing students’ sociocultural contexts and funds of knowledge; and by affording opportunities for students to position themselves as knowers and teachers.

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