Refugee young people (re)forming identities: The role of social networks

Kiprono Langat, Jeanette Major, Jane Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Educational contexts around the world are increasingly characterised by diversity including a rise in students from refugee backgrounds. Much research has focused on the educational needs of these students and the particular struggles they experience in educational contexts. The increasing number of refugee and asylum seeking children in Australia calls for rethinking of innovative educational approaches to enhance the acculturation process in ways that build on individuals’ prior knowledge and understanding of self.
This paper draws on data from a larger case study that focused on Sudanese young people in regional Australia that investigated their out-of-school activities, networks and practices and how these contributed to their success across a range of contexts. Drawing on Gee’s (2001) four perspectives of identity (nature, discourse, institutional and affinity) and theories of social capital, we discuss the role of social networks in generating social capital and what this means in terms of students’ identity (re)formation in regional locations, and consider how this can contribute to educational success. We suggest that the resources in regional areas present both a challenge and an opportunity for young former refugee people in terms of repositioning themselves in new social, cultural and educational contexts. The paper examines how the young people developed their own momentum, rationality and shifting legitimacy in their identity reformation and suggests how educational settings can develop innovative means to engage with them appropriately and positively to avoid deficit narratives that lead to poor educational outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-87
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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