"Who would they talk about if we weren't here?": Muslim youth, liberal schooling, and the politics of concern

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With the growing number of immigrant youth moving into new communities and host nations across the globe (Suarez-Orozco, 2007), it is critical that we deepen our understanding of the ways in which schools enable either the civic engagement or the social marginalization of these young people. In this article Reva Jaffe-Walter presents the results of an ethnographic case study of Muslim students and their teachers in a Danish secondary school. Her findings reveal how liberal educational discourses and desires to offer Muslim immigrant students a better life can slide into processes of everyday exclusion in schools. Jaffe-Walter theorizes that immigrants in liberal democracies face technologies of concern - that is, policies and practices that champion the goals of fostering the engagement and social incorporation of immigrant students while simultaneously producing notions of these youth as Other, justifying practices of coercive assimilation (Foucault, 1977; Ong, 1996). She argues that beyond just producing negative representations, technologies of concern position youth within hierarchical schemes of racial and cultural difference that complicate their access to educational resources in schools (Abu El-Haj, 2010; Ong, 1996). This article has implications for the education and social integration of Muslim immigrants within liberal societies, as it reveals the troubling persistence of exclusion buried within practices of concern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-635
Number of pages23
JournalHarvard Educational Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013


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