Opening-up entangled conversations: engaging with the stories of refugee-background students in Australia

Ramos, Fabiane ORCID: (2018) Opening-up entangled conversations: engaging with the stories of refugee-background students in Australia. [Thesis (PhD/Research)]


In midst of the extremely complicated geopolitical turmoils of our times, I seek to open-up entangled conversations with and about refugee-background students in Australia. Here, opening-up takes multiple meanings. It signifies starting, unlocking, making something available, showing. Opening-up carries its various meanings while interacting with entangled and conversations. The connotation of entangled relates to complexity. It means intricate situations where elements are interconnected and not easily pulled apart. Conversations represent dialogical interactions where exchanges of knowledge take place. And the intricate exchange of knowledge I am writing about takes place within a story. This story, since the day I typed its first words has changed and transformed. In its present form, this is a story about many things.

Firstly, this is a story about education: a narrative about the experiences of seven EAL (English as an Additional Language) refugee-background youth, who have successfully completed their secondary studies in Australia. I chose to focus on narratives of academic success in a quest to produce counter-stories in a research field that has had a tendency to equate students of refugee-background with trauma and pathologies. In doing so, I do not mean to downplay the trauma and hardship that refugee-background students have most likely endured. I do not ignore the problematics/ambiguities with concepts of educational success either. Yet, my argument is that defining a group of students by what they lack and by histories of trauma is a rather reductionist story to tell.

This is also a story about forced migrations and (re)settlements since the educational experiences narrated here did not happen in a vacuum. They took place in parallel and were always interconnected with diverse histories of movement and (re)settlement in Australia. While taking into consideration the histories that frame educational experiences, this story talks about environments too. It analyses layers of complex contexts, global and local, macro and micro that surround the stories within this thesis, the thesis, and the people involved in this project. Within these intricate contexts and power relations, the telling and the stories, are always interrelated.

Finally, but not less significantly, this is a story about research, a story about writing a thesis while writing it. In the telling of this story, I experiment with language, structure and logics while attempting to blur boundaries around research processes and knowledge creation. In this effort, I understand that I am working within the institutional constraints of a PhD and the limitations of my highly-colonised self. I also recognise that this experiment is full of contradictions and tensions as I start to grasp my complicity with oppressive systems at the same time that I question them.

In this process of knowledge creation I embrace the numerous and powerful ‘pull-push’ forces at play and try to make sense, create sense, and communicate in contradictory and entangled realities. In working with these tensions inherent to the complex task at hand, I draw insights from multiple theoretical locations and develop what I call a Borderland Methodology. This methodology is inspired by the feminist work of Gloria Anzladúa (1987, 1990, 2009, 2015) and it embodies research practices that inhabit in-between spaces, where tensions and ambiguities are not hidden but carefully considered. Key within these practices is conversations-as-method, which represent dialogical relations, where I interact with knowledge and texts. Conversations occur during the interviews between the research partners and me; in my engagements with texts (transcripts) from the interviews and with related literature; as well as in my personal reflections.

In terms of outcomes, this thesis inhabits a place of hope where people are knowers in their own narratives. Dwelling in this location does not mean to romanticise told experiences, but to take seriously the material consequences of (re)presentation, while placing the intricacy of individual experiences centre stage. In this place of hope, where dialogue is pivotal, where imagining new logics is possible, I contribute to micro-level changes in the quotidian worlds of sense I live in. I add to a body of knowledge that disrupts what is deemed ‘valid’ thinking and theorising in academia. I open-up conversations, entangled conversations, that challenge hegemonic narratives where the identity marker ‘refugee’ is placed in a well-guarded box of pathology, deficit and trauma.

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Item Type: Thesis (PhD/Research)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Supervisors: Mackinlay, Liz; Lingard, Bob
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2022 02:06
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2022 22:54
Uncontrolled Keywords: refugee-background students; refugee education; refugee experiences; Australia; academic success; decoloniality; feminist theories; borderland methodology; conversations-as-method; poetic (re)presentation
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3904 Specialist studies in education > 390410 Multicultural education (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Māori and Pacific Peoples)
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 16 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 1602 Schools and learning environments > 160201 Equity and access to education
Identification Number or DOI: doi:10.14264/uql.2018.375

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