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7159 - Iraqi Refugee Youth Negotiating Language and Learning Across Home, Work, and School Settings

Learning in and out of school contexts will be explored as mutually constitutive in the development of knowledge and the disciplining of language for academic purposes. Based on more than 8 years of ethnographic fieldwork, in this paper I examine the relevance of language learning in contexts in which literacy is not needed, yet wherein it is used as a gate-keeping device by institutional agents. The case of refugees from the Middle East both in the United States and Europe offers a window for better understanding learning as 'activity with purpose' and learning as 'activity for status and power.' The continuum proposed by this binary opposition allows for an analysis of refugee life and success in USA schools and the work place. The work of Cole, Lave & Wenger, Gee, diSessa, Engeström, amongst others, frame the micro-analyses of talk and interaction offered in the paper. Three cases of young people are shared that suggest that literacy is mediated by econcomic need rather than by any set of personal or culturo-religious values amongs refugees, and this differs vastly from reasons given for literacy learning by previously studied immigrant populations from the Middle East. Thus the teaching and learning of language and literacy as conceived by school structures contrast markedly with the views of refugee youth in their query of the purpose of education and literacy in their host society.

Keywords: youth cultures, literacy, ethnography, language and learning

Author: Sarroub, Loukia (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Austria / Österreich)

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