9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN04 Sociology of Children and Childhood

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Migrant Children and Integration Building II, C6.02

Cultural Diversity in Children's Lives: Biculturalism and processes of Mutual Accommodation

The concept of biculturalism or transculturalism has traditionally referred to the skills and competencies which young people from immigrant or ethnic minority groups develop in order to successfully negotiate life between two or more cultural worlds. It is widely argued that the development of such skills has a critical role to play in minority children?s adaptation and integration into a new community as well as in promoting positive relationships both between and within different groups. However, public policy at national and EU level increasingly recognises that ?integration? cannot be a one-sided endeavour but must involve ?mutual accommodation? between the host society and newcomers.

This paper aims to explore the realities of these processes of mutual accommodation within children?s everyday lives in Irish society using the example of 10-12 year old Irish and newcomer girls attending school in North Inner-city Dublin. It will report findings from classroom based fieldwork in three schools in the Dublin North Inner-City involving participant observation and interviews with children. This fieldwork was conducted between January and June 2008 as part of the first phase of the Trinity Immigration Initiative?s Children Youth and Community Relations project ?Learning Together? at Trinity College Dublin (http://www.tcd.ie/immigration/community/index.php). The ?Learning Together? study has been conducted in a unique time and context as immigration to Ireland is a relatively recent phenomenon, allowing us an insight into the experiences of immigrant and ?local? children in host communities with little prior experience of cultural diversity.

Emerging findings indicate that developing relationships and fostering interaction, collaboration and exchange between children from different cultures, ethnicities or religions within schools involves more than just promoting an ethos of equality of rights or positive attitudes towards diversity. Rather, it requires the development of bicultural skills and competencies by children from both immigrant and majority society communities. This has considerable implications not only for the focus of public policies but also the direction of future research.