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Performing the "Good (Im)Migrant": Inclusive Education Between Linguistic Assimilation and Survival

Sat, April 18, 12:25 to 1:55pm, Virtual Room


In the new era of anti-(im)migration propaganda, inclusive education for migrant and refugee children or emerging bilinguals is still conceptualized as their integration into monolingual and monocultural general education settings (Migliarini, 2017a). Issues of achievement gap and disproportionality are positioned as unyielding disparities. This paper aims to understand the ways in which refugee and migrant children understand their own linguistic development within the host societies, which are often characterised by unwelcoming and toxic political landscapes. While defining refugee and migrant children as performatively constituted subjects (Butler, 1997), this paper explores how they respond to their linguistic urgency, learn the mainstream European languages, while devaluing their native ones, in order to perform the ‘good (im)migrant’ for the host society (Migliarini, 2017b; Cioè-Peña, Moore & Martin Rojo, 2017).

Perspective(s) or theoretical framework
Drawing on Judith Butler’s (1997) notions of performative politics and discursive agency, raciolinguistics (Flores & Rosa, 2015; Vigoroux, 2017), and intersectional framework of DisCrit (Annamma, Connor, & Ferri, 2013), this paper analyses the ways in which linguistic performativity serves as a tool for assimilation, inclusion, survival and acceptance within the host society.

Performative politics, discursive agency, DisCrit and raciolinguistics are used in this paper to understand how external attitudes regarding language, race and immigrant status influence young (im)migrant perceptions of linguistic inclusion in schools and society, and how the knowledge of European languages is considered as the preferred way to inclusion.

Methods and Data Sources
This paper uses qualitative data from two studies centered on the experiences of linguistic-minorities with disability labels. The first ethnographic case study focused on the experiences of Spanish-speaking undocumented Latinx mothers and their emergent bilingual children who are labeled as disabled (EBLADs). The second study was designed as a Constructivist Grounded Theory (Charmaz, 2014), and investigated the intersections of ‘race’, disability, and (im)migrant status in relation to the to the educational and social experiences of unaccompanied forced-migrant children in Italy. The data the first study was gathered through semi-structured interviews, testimonios, observations and artifact collection. The second study involved in-depth semi-structured interviews with 27 participants, 17 professionals and 10 asylum-seeking and refugee children from West African countries at different stages of their asylum request process.

Findings from both studies highlight how language is used as a performative tool through which (im)migrants are granted and denied entry in new countries where they are the linguistic minority. This discourse of language as both salvation and damnation is revealed in the ways in which disabled unaccompanied refugee children/ migrant children frame the home language and the target language.

Scholarly Significance
Often, the discourse around language is framed within the premise that immigrants are disinterested or incapable of learning the dominant language of their new homeland. This paper centers the values that refugee and migrant children have regarding their own linguistic practices. Lastly, this paper will explore the ways in which the racialization of these children influence the ways in which dominant communities perceived not only their linguistic capacity but also their linguistic efforts.

Word Count: 499 (not including title)