The quest for belonging: Arab Muslim ESOL students' (re)-construction of linguistic and cultural identities

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University of Alabama Libraries

This case study describes the educational, social, and cultural experiences of three Arab Muslim high school students in the ESL program of a southeastern state of U.S. During the fall of 2009, the researcher spent an average of two days a week with the participants and their families and friends as a participant-observer. Data included field notes, taped interviews of the three student participants, and observation of the participants and their interaction with their families, friends and community members. The question that guided the research was "How do the competing discourses of family, religion, and language impact the identities of Arab Muslim adolescent English language learners?" The study draws on sociocultural theory and postcolonial theory in order to examine the ways in which the ESOL students negotiate and their identities as they learn English. Findings indicate that students' identities are fluid and constructed in response to different social contexts. The study illustrates the ways in which English Only policy, the ESL program in the school, and the stigmatized status particularly after 9/11 have been powerful forces that marginalized the Arab Muslim immigrant students. The study shows the ways in which these Arab Muslim students have constructed hybridized identities to maintain their L1 cultural identities while at the same time learning English to become a part of the their host country.

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Education, Language and Literature, Sociology of education, Religious education