Many liberal-minded Western democracies pride themselves on their commitments to egalitarianism, the fair treatment of immigrants, and the right to education. These environments would seem to provide a best-case scenario for the reception of immigrant youth. But that is not always the case. Coercive Concern explores how stereotypes of Muslim immigrants in Western liberal societies flow through public schools into everyday interactions, informing how Muslim youth are perceived by teachers and peers. Beyond simply identifying the presence of racialized speech in schools, this book uncovers how coercive assimilation is cloaked in benevolent narratives of care and concern.
Coercive Concern provides an ethnographic critique of the "concern" that animates integration policy in Danish schools. Reva Jaffe-Walter focuses on the experiences of Muslim youth at a public school where over 40% of the student body is of immigrant descent, showing how schools operate as sites of governance. These efforts are led by political leaders who promote national fears of immigrant take-over, by teachers in schools, and by everyday citizens who are concerned about "problems" of immigration. Jaffe-Walter exposes the psychic and material costs immigrant youth endure when living in the shadow of social scrutiny, but she also charts a path forward by uncovering the resources these youth need to attain social mobility and success.
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Reva Jaffe-Walter is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Montclair State University.
Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: Ethnographic Journeys through Concern
The introduction familiarizes readers with the author's main arguments, theoretical framework, and methodologies. Jaffe-Walter argues that in the context of increased migration and globalization, Muslim youth are subjected to processes of racialization and assimilationist "concern," especially in Western liberal democracies. The anthropology of policy provides a lens for considering how policies create "figured worlds" of meaning; that is how policies inform ideas about the kinds of identities public schools should foster and the role of teachers in encouraging the development of those identities. Further, this lens allows the author to consider how policies produce stereotyped notions of Muslim identities taken up by various actors in schools through what she refers to as processes of "figuring" identities. This chapter includes a discussion of the author's positionality, the research site, the ethnographic methods used, and the book's larger contribution.
1Producing Liberal National Imaginaries in Relation to Muslim "Others"
This chapter provides an overview of how current discourses on integration and Muslim immigration reflect historical narratives about "enlightened" Europeans and "barbaric" Muslims and how politicians take up these narratives to gain political traction. Through a discussion of ethnic and civic nationalisms, the author points to the contradictions of liberal nationalisms that claim to promote a view of the nation as inclusive and tolerant yet, center on preserving particular ways of being. Jaffe-Walter considers how the production of "the nation" and "the people" within Europe and the United States has developed in opposition to notions of ethnicized "others." After providing a brief history of Danish immigration and Danish schooling, the discussion moves into the primary site of the author's fieldwork at Engby school and explores how Danishness and Islam are negotiated in the space of the school.
2Integration Policies and Immigration: Creating Ideal Liberal Subjects
This chapter presents an analysis of Danish integration policies to consider how notions of Muslim immigrants are produced in policies. The author explores questions such as: What are the ways that government strategies for policing immigrant communities become accepted by the public as necessary and warranted? How do policies exert disciplinary power to cultivate ideal liberal subjects and "empower" immigrants to liberalize themselves? How are the reforms, technologies, and ways of seeing produced through policies reproduced by actors in various sites and institutions? More specifically Jaffe-Walter considers how integration policies call for the coercive assimilation of Muslim women in the name of preventing discrimination and promoting gender equality while obscuring the structural factors that complicate their participation in the labor market. The chapter concludes with an exploration of how teachers take up narratives about immigrant ghettos within the community of Engby and at Engby School.
3"Liberalizing" Muslim Girls
By exploring a series of interactions between teachers and immigrant girls from multiple perspectives, Jaffe-Walter reveals in Chapter three how some teachers conceived of their work with Muslim girls through a framework of concern-more specifically, their desire to share with their students the freedoms associated with Danish ideals of gender equity, sexuality, and "democracy" as an escape from what they believed to be a historical cycle of gender oppression in the Muslim community. The author focuses on the experiences of female Muslim students in the classroom and examines the assumptions that some educators make about the lives and development of Muslim girls such as: the presumed negative influence that Muslim families, ethnic enclaves, and religious affiliation have on female children; the belief that sexual liberation is a path to integration; and finally, the idea that intellectual and emotional development center on becoming a free-thinking autonomous individual.
4Negotiating Relationships to Hostlands and Homelands: Portraits of Aliyah, Sara, and Dhalia
This chapter examines how Muslim youth negotiate the ways in which they are constructed within policy and discourse and they respond to this figuring with creative improvisations of identity. The author considers how youths conceive of their connections to Danish citizenship and peer groups, as well as their relationships to "home" countries and ethnic communities. Through an exploration of the lives of three focal participants Aliyah, Dhalia, and Sara, Jaffe-Walter offer deep insights into what it feels like to negotiate everyday exclusion as a Muslim immigrant in a Western liberal democracy, and more significantly, shows how young people pursue fragile webs of belonging and recognition in the context of transnational imaginaries and the spaces of diaspora that are produced through the greater political forces of labor migration, political occupation, and dispossession.
5"I'm Somali by nature, I'm Muslim by choice, and I'm Danish by paper": Narrating Identities in the Figured World of Danes and "Others"
In this chapter Jaffe-Walter explores the ways that Muslim students see their own identities in relation to Danishness and how they negotiate multiple selves in schools and communities. She considers the different ways that Muslim boys and girls are racialized and gendered in various spaces and their reactions to experiences of public surveillance and policing. Through an analysis of young people's identity maps, i.e., visual representations of their identities, this chapter explores the messages young people receive about their identities and how those messages influence their feelings of belonging. Significantly, the author finds that young people respond to social scrutiny of their identities by limiting their interactions within those contexts and adopting a defensive posture.
6Imagining Spaces of Recognition: Teachers' Counter-Narratives and Comparative Sites of Possibility
This chapter presents the voices of teachers at Engby school who challenged the figured worlds and identities of Danish integration policies. It tells the story of a Turkish teacher Aysa, her "war" against the stereotyping of Muslim students, and her efforts to create more expansive notions of citizenship and belonging within Engby school. In order to suggest ways of envisioning more equitable modes of schooling for Muslim and immigrant youth the author then moves into the spaces of schools in the United States that are explicitly focused on promoting the achievement of immigrant students. This chapter concludes by calling for schooling that supports the development of students' critical consciousness to critique and re-frame nationalist and exclusionary discourses and provides safe spaces where students experience recognition and a sense of belonging.
Conclusion: Seeing Through "the Wall": Interrogating Liberal Blind Spots and Silences
Revisiting the central arguments of the book, the author concludes with a consideration of how the anthropology of policy offers new ways of "seeing" and "hearing" the effects of current integration debates on members of Muslim immigrant communities. This final segment of the book reveals how policies consolidate understandings of Muslim "others" within the figured worlds of schools and society and how they inspire processes of figuring and coercive assimilation. Jaffe-Walter offers a window into the affective dimensions of policies, how they stir up and exploit feelings of anger, nostalgia, and care. This concluding discussion has implications for policymakers and for educators. The author argues that nationalist integration policies that view Muslim communities through the lens of concern obscure a genuine recognition of the experiences and needs of these communities.
"Jaffe-Walter insightfully sheds light on everyday enactments of bias in the educational lives of immigrant youth. This beautifully written, timely book provides important lessons for educators, practitioners, policy makers, and researchers on both sides of the Atlantic." -- Carola Suarez-Orozco * co-author of <i>Learning a New Land: Immigrant Students in American Society</i> * "This book shows that what appear on the surface to be benign liberal-democratic policies of integration for immigrants in Denmark are experienced by Muslim immigrant youth in their daily school life as not-so-subtle pressures toward assimilation. Jaffe-Walter's compelling narrative uncovers the inherent contradictions within the gentle discipline and punishment of culture difference." -- Frederick Erickson * University of California, Los Angeles * "In Jaffe-Walter's skillful hands, the story inside Coercive Concern acts as a provocative mirror for those of us living in 'liberal democracies,' revealing the cultural practice of othering in the stark language of exclusion and the soft language of concern." -- Michelle Fine, The Graduate Center * CUNY *
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