PhD Research

“Globalizing Literacies and Identities: Translingual and Transcultural Literacy Practices of Bhutanese Refugees in the U.S.”

Through a combination of participant observation, interpretation of participant interviews and cultural artifacts, and fieldnotes, this study explores how language and literacy shape the social identities and cultural practices of Bhutanese refugees, and how an understanding of their literate practices contributes to new conceptualizations of language and literacies research. Involving fifty-six Bhutanese refugees from a Midwest city, this two-year long ethnographic study highlights linguistic and cultural resources utilized by Bhutanese refugees at key literacy sites, such as an Elderly Care Center, mandatory ESL classes, weekly cultural and musical gatherings, men’s and women’s Kirtan (religious singing) groups, and youth online forums, that are utilized for creating, preserving, and sustaining their linguistic, cultural, musical, and literate traditions. Of prime significance are the ways this study looks at these sites as platforms not only for cultural resistance but also for the reproduction and transformation of cultural and literate practices. The purpose of this study is to explore how the refugees assert and negotiate their language and cultural identities across spaces mediated by the sponsors of literacy, and global media.

While most ethnographies studying out-of-school literacies treat in-school and beyond school literate practices as discrete entities, this study highlights continuities across these learning spaces, forging a response to those who see literacy as a discrete cognitive practice that takes place mostly in the contexts of schooled reading and writing. Findings from the research indicate that the use of multiple languages, cultural resources, and new media have cultivated Bhutanese refugees’ literate practices in relation to race, gender, and nationality in a digitized and globalized context. While focused on a Bhutanese refugee community, the findings of this study are relevant for educators who look for new ways to imagine academic experiences that are socially and culturally responsive. My study of the literacy practices of Bhutanese refugees reflects the shifting socio-cultural dimensions of the U.S. population, not only in terms of social diversity but also in relation to the political and cultural conflicts that underpin the refugees’ lived experiences.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: