Into the breakdown: embracing ethnographic confusion in challenging nationalist policy “truths”

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


The policies and discourses of the Trump administration reflect such extreme examples of inhumane policies and racializing logic that they are easy to identify and call out. In this essay, I focus instead on the less obvious and more everyday processes of racialization and anti-immigrant sentiment that are taken up by various actors in schools. I consider how tropes and stories generated by nationalist policies and discourses around the world seep into teachers’ commonsense understandings about who immigrant students are and what they require to be successful. In doing so, I draw on Michael Agar’s (1986) notion of the ethnographic “breakdown” to explore individual breakdown moments in my own research in a Danish public school and teaching in a US school of teacher education as a useful mechanism for discerning how policies and discourses shape everyday exclusions in schools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-173
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2020



  • ethnography
  • immigration
  • nationalism

Cite this