The ways in which educational identities have been presented and understood is incomplete. An educational identity should be how individuals or groups identify themselves and others as educated based on their understandings of what it means to be an educated person. In applying this concept of an educational identity, the purpose of this life history study is to understand how Karen women in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area negotiate their educational identities from their lived experiences in Burma, Thailand, and the United States. The guiding research questions in this study are: 1) How do Karen women negotiate their educational identities in different sociocultural contexts, and 2) How do Karen women's lived experiences in Burma, Thailand, and the United States shape their understanding of what it means to be educated? Using primarily interviews and participant observations, this study elicits insight about the educational experiences of nine Karen women to understand how they construct and negotiate what it means to be educated in different sociocultural contexts. The participants are between 21-43 years old and have been or are currently enrolled in formal or non-formal education. The findings in this study reveal that the Karen women negotiate their educational identities using two main components: level of education and experiences. Level of education refers to years of formal schooling, whereas experiences refer to non-formal and informal ways of learning. Moreover, the women's life histories illustrate how sociocultural contexts shape how they negotiate their educational identities. In answering the second research question, the findings elucidate that what it means to be educated in Karen culture is when the educated person demonstrates respect, maintains a good reputation, gives back, and is independent. In addition to contributing to the literature about educational identities, refugee women, the Karen in Minnesota, and the educational experiences of refugees and immigrants, the findings from this study can also inform educational policies and programs.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2015. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Gerald Fry. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 228 pages.
Negotiating Educational Identities: Life Histories of Karen Women in Minnesota.
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