Many young people turn to education as a way to achieve what they hope their lives will be like in the future. This qualitative longitudinal study drew on the capabilities approach and the concept of habitus to understand the ways in which American youth in the Somali diaspora described their educational aspirations and how they exercised their abilities to achieve them. My findings show that youth in the Somali diaspora had aspirations that were influenced by their parents’ pasts as Somali refugees. Many aspired to be doctors so that they might one day be of service to people living in Somalia and so that they would earn enough to care for family members. Aspirations changed (and became more open-ended) through time among the high school youth as they began to more deeply engage in new social fields, like school. My findings also show that youth enacted agency by navigating contradictions they encountered in different social fields. Being Somali (and Muslim) made them targets for discrimination, but also offered them security and strategies to do well in school. Youth navigated a concomitant sense of belonging and isolation in the diaspora—where their biggest social supports, their parents and other diasporic resources, also prompted them to self-exclude from activities outside of the diaspora.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2018. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Joan DeJaeghere. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 254 pages.
Contradictions of Belonging: The Educational Aspirations and Agency of Youth in the Somali Diaspora.
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