The "strangers" among us : The social construction of identity in adult education

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköpings universitet

Abstract: The aim of this study is to critically examine the labelling practices in the multicultural discourse in two adult education settings. The theoretical perspective used in order to understand and interpret the actors' labelling practices is social constructionism. A theoretical perspective that views man as an active constructor of meanings and reality.The purpose of this study is to interrupt or, as I emphasised in this study, to problematise the talk of the "other" as different or same in the social discourse of the multiculturality of the Swedish society. Consequently, the focus of the study is the categories/ Concepts the actors in the two settings use to define themselves as same or different, or what 1 call the social construction of difference.This study was conducted at a day folk high school, and in a municipal adult education centre. A total of 33 students and 9 staff members were interviewed. In addition, three teachers in the folk high school and four teachers in Komvux were observed. The results of the study demonstrate that the concepts culture, ethnicity and immigrants are used interchangeably by the native actors to construct the non-native students as the outsiders. But the main concept used by the native actors in othering the other is culture, and this is closely related to the actors' notion or construction of who they are in relation to the other. That is, there is a strong affirmation of cultural difference in the talk of the native actors. In this talk it is the non-European/non-Western cultures that are conceptualised as the problem. An important aspect of this cultural discourse is the racialisation of the concept of culture. In constructing their reality in the two settings the non-native students, particularly non-European immigrants have internalised this meta and micro (interpersonal relation) perception of themselves as different and a problem. In the process they label the native actors as essentially prejudiced and "other' them on that basis.The non-native students, on the other hand, define themselves in and outside the school as the outsider and a victim of the natives' prejudices and images of their culture as not only different, but also inferior and a threat, while the native actors talk from the position of the insider, or from the perspective that the non-natives have culture and the natives do not. It is also apparent in this study that the actors, irrespective of their ethnic/cultural background, have many things in common. Nevertheless, in their talk they seem to ignore their shifting identities and talk as if they occupy a fixed identity or position

  This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.