Education, language, and identity in multiethnic environments: a case study
Pérez Izaguirre, Elisabeth
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Students in education systems are often seen as products of their socialization process through a set of given structures of interaction. This assumption has important implications, because according to these perspectives, subjects are seen as reproducers of their social position rather than producers of it. This premise has direct implications on the concept of identity, as according to this perspective, it is the product of a set of already given structures of interaction subjects cannot change. Using ethnographic methods, this work analyzes how student identity is formed in interaction in education systems. This study is located in a Basque secondary education center which has a high multi-ethnic studentship attendance. Results indicate the relevance of three elements in students¿ relationships: first, the structure of the education system, which is often portrayed as a constriction on the kinds of relationships that students among themselves, and students and teachers have. Through these relationships, students¿ social positions are sometimes reproduced. Second, ethnic, social, and symbolic boundary-making, or the relationships among individuals or groups who have diverse ethnic backgrounds and social positions. In these interactions, power relations are often present. Third, limit transgressions in adolescence were the most remarkable interactions in the data collected. Limit transgression is a notion linked to the testing of social rules and order. In the testing of limits, adolescents often find conflicts. A categorization of three levels of limit transgressions is presented in this work, according to the interactions observed. Most non-autochthonous student-teacher limit transgressions were in the form of student opposition to Basque language learning. Through these transgressive interactions non-autochthonous students enacted ethnic boundaries; questioned the education system structure and built their identity in opposition to the rule of learning the Basque language. The study concludes that the structure of school constricts but also enables student-student and student-teacher interactions in the form of transgressions or questioning the norms of society. These interactions create a unique kind of identity.