Transnational Mexican-origin families : ways of knowing and implications for schooling
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Transnational Mexican-origin Families is a qualitative study of four working class, Mexican-origin families who resided in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. region and who also made return visits to Mexico at least every two years. Through critical ethnographic case studies, the researcher worked with the families for over two years in multi-sited ethnography, with locations in the U.S. and Mexico. The dissertation examines the following question: What are the ways of knowing of Mexican-origin transnational students and their families in the Washington, D.C. area, and how do these transnational families experience their ways of knowing regarding education in formal schooling contexts? Using transnational theory and Gloria Anzaldúa’s theory of conocimiento, or knowing, this study shows how transnational families’ ways of knowing are situated in three mutually-constituted domains. They are: 1) chained knowing, including the ways participants are chained to the Mexican-U.S. border and to their communities in Mexico and the U.S., 2) sobrevivencia or survivalist knowing, in terms of how the families both survive and thrive, highlighting what I call their “underdog mentality” as well as the matters of life and death on both sides of the border, and 3) Nepantlera knowing, or an in-between knowing, which allows for attempts at bridge buildings and creation of Third Spaces. In regards to schooling, the transnational aspects of these families’ lives remained hidden, despite the students’ eagerness to share about their transnationalism. Schools tended to respond to their transnational families along the “continuum of the comfortable,” or a line where schools increased their outreach to these families only moderately and only along their terms. The intention of this research is to disrupt assimilationist discourses about immigrants, particularly in light of the need to be able to navigate an increasingly globalized world. Preliminary findings suggest the need to begin to reframe immigrants as transnational, value their language heritages, disrupt the comfort of educators in their outreach to transnational families, and for educators, in particular, to learn to do the work of border crossing in their outreach to transnational families.