Where is "home?" Interpreting Horn of Africa youth discourse and the politics of "displaced youth"

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Abstract

This dissertation is a discursive inquiry into the language Horn of Africa (HOA) youth use as they talk about their experiences. Study participants are 1.5 and second generation HOA youth, mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, living in the Pacific Northwest and actively participating in youth programs provided by three agencies serving HOA immigrant populations. Youth in the study participated in three focus groups. Employing postcolonial and poststructuralist frameworks, the study aims to reveal the function of language in representing HOA youth: it assumes language to be a "site of contestation" where youth position and reposition their claims as they characterize themselves and their experiences. The study's thematic findings highlight three aspects of HOA youth experience: their strategic use of the language of difference ; the hybridity of their experiences and aesthetics; and their use of this inbetweeness as a space of possibility. The study captures the nuances of HOA youth discourse, moving beyond dichotomous frameworks to more fully acknowledge the complexities for immigrant youth of negotiating inbetween spaces. These complexities reveal that HOA youth can and do displace discourses that represent them. Revealing the complexities of HOA youth language also has the potential to dismantle underlying paradigms that take-for-granted the politics of "displaced youth." The study potentially contributes to social work methodology, theory, and practice, and to youth programming. The study findings challenge theoretical and conceptual frameworks that assume HOA youth have a stable, rational, and unified identity, and assume related ideas about empowerment and change, which can ultimately victimize youth for not fitting into expected norms. From the perspective of this study, liberation from dominant discourses does not require a stable identity; rather, identities are continuously and complexly produced in and through competing discourses. The research points to the need for youth programs to focus on exploring how cultures and languages represent youth, and their populations, while also questioning what it means to talk across borders, as the youth move beyond conventional discourses of multiculturalism. The study also has the potential to inform host society perceptions of HOA youth in particular and African immigrants in general.

Author-supplied keywords

  • 0452:Social work
  • 0620:Developmental psychology
  • 0631:Ethnic studies
  • 0654:South African Studies
  • Culture
  • Developmental psychology
  • Displacement
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Ethnic studies
  • Horn of Africa
  • Identity
  • Immigrants
  • Immigrants and refugees
  • Psychology
  • Refugees
  • Social sciences
  • Social work
  • Somalia
  • South African Studies
  • Youth

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Authors

  • Aster Solomon Tecle

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