UNDERSTANDINGS OF IDENTITIES AMONG UNIVERSITY STUDENTS FROM FORCED MIGRANT BACKGROUNDS: A DIALOGICAL NARRATIVE ANALYSIS

UoM administered thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology

  • Authors:
  • Doireann Mangan

Abstract

Background and objectives: This study set out to explore identities among university students from forced migrant backgrounds. Issues related to identity have been found to contribute to the specific and significant challenges this student group can face in higher education. The research question was: how do students from forced migrant backgrounds understand their identities. Focusing on identities, through a dialogical narrative lens, offered a route into investigating the subjective and intersubjective experiences of forced migrant-background students, as well as processes of change associated with being at university, and how wider discourses may impact upon them. Methodology: Three participants from forced migrant backgrounds who had recently completed university studies were recruited. Semi-structured interviews were employed to generate data. Interviews incorporated the use of an artefact: participants were invited to bring an object which represented something about their identities. Data were analysed using dialogical narrative analysis. This involved focusing on aspects of positioning, the use of small stories, and multivoicedness, in the interview encounters. Attention was given both to what participants said about their identities, and the ways in which they constructed these identities. Analysis: Analysis of participants’ narratives is presented individually and structured according to interrelated themes, each conveying some aspect of their identities. Themes include ‘activist and ambassador,’ and ‘not representing what is expected.’ Commonalities identified in ways of expressing, understanding and adapting identities across the narratives are also presented, in the form of five elements which fit together to form a narrative synthesis. The elements are: education as important for identity; being different; identity transformation, as part of being a university student; using new power and identities to react against injustices; and, facilitating this, identity choice and agency. Reflexive considerations, fundamental to the dialogical narrative research approach, are discussed. Discussion and conclusions: A key contribution to knowledge is that despite facing adversity, forced migrant-background students make use of their identity transformations - attributed in part to their university participation - to respond proactively to societal forces which may discriminate against them and others. Methodologically, both dialogical narrative analysis and the use of artefacts are found to contribute to investigating issues of identity. Indications for counselling psychologists include the importance of promoting awareness among practitioners of the complex issues forced migrant students often face. For higher education institutions as well as counselling psychologists, the importance of providing adequate support for these students is emphasised. It is highlighted that research into forced migration issues fits with counselling psychology’s commitment to social justice, in terms of supporting groups at risk of marginalisation. It also aligns with calls within the discipline for increased attention to issues regarding race, culture and ethnicity, which intersect with forced migration. The wide-ranging potential benefits of supporting students from forced migrant backgrounds towards educational success are outlined.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Aug 2018