Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant: Youth in Debate with the West: Citizenship Within and Beyond the European Classroom

Project Details


Graduate student Maisa Taha (University of Arizona), supervised by Dr. Norma Mendoza-Denton, will do research in southeast Spain, where an intensive greenhouse agriculture boom has attracted immigrants from Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and above all, Muslim North Africa. This research will address the processes of incorporation and inclusion of immigrant populations resulting from globalization and transnational processes presently occurring. Specifically it will focus on the interactions of Spanish and first-generation immigrant youth in high school classes designed to promote democratic values and ethical living (part of the EU's so-called 'Citizenship' curricula).

The researcher will use participant observation, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and audio/video recordings to document how immigrant and Spanish students examine their own multicultural existences with each other and with teachers. The research will take place at high schools in three towns with distinct demographic profiles, with the objectives of (a) assessing the prevalence of East-versus-West arguments around ideals of freedom, equality, autonomy, and secularism taught in the Citizenship classes; (b) documenting political and cultural debates inside and outside of classrooms; and (c) historically contextualizing current debates about immigrant inclusion, education, and citizenship at the local, national, and pan-European levels.

There are numerous broader impacts from this research. The project is significant because it will deepen understanding of how publicly-schooled youth in highly diverse settings engage with civic and ethical education intended to promote 'unity-in-diversity' across the entire EU. Given the racial, linguistic, religious, and cultural differences that have segregated communities in southeast Spain, the findings from this study will also contribute to education policy and curriculum development while offering a first-hand view of an upcoming, newly multicultural generation of citizens learning to handle social inclusion and democratic action. Such results will prove relevant to policy makers, educators, community organizers and scholars around the world who seek ways of understanding how democracy and pluralism can grow in tandem, particularly when it comes to marginalized and often stigmatized, non-Western groups.

Effective start/end date1/03/1131/08/12


  • National Science Foundation: $18,119.00


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