Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


This thesis foregrounds the application of anthropological documentary methods and ethnographic investigation in examining the world of child immigrants and the cross-cultural dilemmas they encounter upon entering the formal educational system of the ‘host’ country- in this case, a primary school setting in Dublin and Paris. The specificity of the primary school classroom as an ethnographic site facilitates a sustained audio-visual examination of immigrant children as they work to re-build their identities in a new and unfamiliar environment. Such a richly textured space opens up potential avenues of exploration for the researcher: what, for example, can intercultural pedagogy learn from the child who is dealing with two or more languages and for whom the past and present have been unexpectedly and irreversibly transformed? How are embodied cultural memories from the past carried and expressed in the immediate present? How are the values of the ‘host’ culture transmitted and what pressures, if any, are placed on immigrant children to prematurely verbalise their personal stories? How do immigrant children dramatise between themselves and with their teachers the conflicted dynamics of their cultural transformation? How does the cinematic process generate a milieu for young migrant actors to be multi-vocal? The thesis comprises five chapters together with an introduction and a conclusion. Chapter one provides a critical overview of the concept of childhood and the role of migrant children’s’ agency in the construction of a transcultural identity. Drawing on a number of scholars in cultural anthropology, visual anthropology and cultural studies, the chapter elaborates and explains certain terms and concepts used throughout the thesis: the ‘transcultural’, the ‘anthropology of experience’ and ‘cross-cultural ethnographic film practice’. Simultaneously the chapter introduces the role of the DVD artefact as an essential and integrated component of the thesis throughout, offering the reader a viewing source of all moving image material, referenced in each of the five chapters. Chapter two introduces film fieldwork conducted in a primary school in Paris in which migrant children, newly arrived in France, and who do not speak French are compelled to learn the language, since it is a compulsory requirement for integration into the French school system. The thematics and critical concepts of this chapter include: the post-colonial school system in France, the effects of linguistic assimilation, the tropes of observational cinema, migrant children’s experience of intercultural modes of communication and the role of the somatic in the acquisition of new languages and cultural practices. Chapter three functions as the main field site in the dissertation, comprising the core ethnographic work conducted in a mono-denominational primary school, in the inner city of Dublin. Juxtaposing classrooms (in Paris and Dublin), a contrast is created between two European models of ‘multicultural’ education and cultural integration. Divided into five sections, chapter three includes thematics and critical concepts, such as observational participant cinema, storytelling and personal memory, transcultural pedagogy, the role of religion, the cultural life of Irish educators, and the role of multicultural literacy. The fourth chapter engages with the subject of a migrant domestic sphere, conducting visual fieldwork with an Algerian family recently reunified in Ireland. The thematics and critical concepts of this chapter include the politics of the migrant domestic space, intergenerational tensions, the practise of cinema-verite, the cultural politics shaping Algerian and Berber minorities, the construction of adolescence and the performance of migration and memory. The fifth and final chapter merges storytelling with an anthropological analysis of migrant children’s stories. Thematics and critical concepts throughout this concluding chapter include: memory and remembrance; childhood strategies of agency and resistance; the politics of heteroglossia; children’s everyday lived experience, the role of participant cinema and the interview.


Included in

Sociology Commons