Activating Agency, Constructing Identities: Burmese Refugee Youth Narratives Of Life And Education In The United States
The purpose of this study was to investigate how refugee youth from Burma construct their identities while navigating the United States education system and society, through the methods of narrative analysis. To this end, this study focused on identitymaking and the learning experiences of Burmese refugee youth, and included research questions such as: "How do refugee youth from Burma narrate their lives, experiences and identities living in the United States?" and "What sources of capital/knowledge do these students describe having?" The data used in this study were interviews conducted as part of a larger longitudinal research project, Community Voices: Stories of Family, Culture and Education, investigated by Sofia Villenas, Cornell University. This larger study explores how a community makes sense of racial inequity and social justice within their school district. Participants for this thesis included four Burmese youth (three female, one male) from two different ethnic groups, three from the Burman ethnic majority, and one from the Karen ethnic minority group; they ranged in ages 15 to 19. These youths discussed diverse "refugee" experiences, which were reflected in the way they self-identified. Their narratives described the acceptance, rejection, and construction of multiple identities as a result of their lived-experiences. As they shared their stories, these youths illustrated numerous cultural and experiential resources that were drawn upon in order to facilitate the process of activating agency. Although each narrative was unique, this analysis attempts to add to our knowledge of the experiences of refugee youth in U.S. schools and communities. Their voices push us to question further what it means to be a "refugee," or to be "American," and how we can better incorporate their knowledges and perspectives in the classroom.!
Villenas, Sofia A
Williams, Linda Brooks; Fiskesjo, N Magnus G
Master of Science
dissertation or thesis