Learning to Belong, Belonging to Learn: Syrian Refugee Youths' Pursuits of Education, Membership and Stability in Lebanon
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AbstractThe need to belong is a fundamental human need, yet in contemporary contexts of migration, conflict and forced displacement, it remains severely contested and continually undermined. The policies of education institutions and beyond, and the practices of individuals embedded within these institutions, can deepen or diminish individuals’ sense of belonging and membership within the communities they find themselves in.
The world is currently experiencing yet another epoch of migration—65.6 million people were displaced by conflict in 2016. How do refugee youth displaced by conflict foster and challenge their claims on membership and construct their need to belong? Through three papers, this study investigates these issues in the case of Syrian refugee youths’ belonging in Lebanon. Data for this study are based on 62 in-depth, repeat interviews conducted with Syrian refugee youth and policy makers over two-phases of a year’s worth of data collection in Lebanon, in 2016.
Through literature from the fields of sociology on boundary crossing, and from the field of forced migration studies on refugees’ unique position in between nation-states, the first paper conceptualizes ideas of refugee youth belonging. Through three portraits, it investigates refugee youths’ every day practices by which they come to acknowledge, negotiate and transcend the very boundaries of belonging that have otherwise constricted them.
The second paper examines the role of higher education policy and practice in expanding the boundaries of belonging. Specifically, it investigates the role of higher education scholarships for refugee learners and through Lipsky’s theory on street level bureaucracy and Nancy Fraser’s scales of justice, it unearths the many equity considerations that are often overlooked in organizations’ distributional efforts to level higher education participation for refugee youth in Lebanon.
The final paper analyzes the role of social supports for refugee youth in Lebanon, as mediated through individuals and institutions. Building on work from the fields of community psychology and sociology, it finds the many locally and globally situated supports that refugee youth marshal and share, as they chart pathways to their education and life aspirations.
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