Schooling, identity, and ethnicity in a new immigrant state: the challenges of belonging and performance among Vietnamese Montagnard refugees in an urban high school Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Thorstensson Dávila, Liv
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • This dissertation examines how a group of Vietnamese Montagnard refugee high school students transact their identities at a low-performing, urban high school in the U.S. southeast. As a qualitative study, this research draws on principals of ethnographic inquiry and prioritizes the individual voices of nine students and their teachers, as well as field notes taken during classroom observations. It also draws on background data from interviews with parents, and community members to build an understanding of broader tensions and possibilities that shape these students' identities in school. Findings are analyzed though Holland et al.'s and Holland and Lave's framework of identity. Findings reveal that the students generally view themselves and are viewed by their teachers and peers as good kids but poor students, owing to their experiences as a marginalized ethnic minority in Vietnam, interrupted formal education, limited English proficiency, and graduation requirements that stymie their sense of success in and beyond school. In spite of the tensions they face, all of the students persist in school and hold a strong desire to graduate. Their identities not only problematize the dominant dichotomizing discourse on Asian immigrants in U.S. schools, which has positioned them as either high-achieving and obedient, or low-achieving, delinquent, and a burden to teachers, but also reveal the wide range of academic identities among Asian American students who fall between the stereotyped dichotomizations. In addition, rather than viewing themselves through the lens of race, the students generally transact identities, whether internally or externally, through the lens of their Montagnard ethnicity. This study sheds light on the dynamic interplay between labeling, self-perception, and experience, a process which defines the way these students experience school. Findings have direct implications for questions surrounding newcomer refugee education, scholarship on refugee students, teacher education/enrichment, and educational policies geared toward high school completion.
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  • In Copyright
  • Rong, Xue Lan
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

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