Frontiers of Belonging
The Education of Unaccompanied Refugee Youth
Published by: Indiana University Press
As unprecedented numbers of unaccompanied African minors requested asylum in Europe in 2015, Annika Lems witnessed a peculiar dynamic: despite inclusionary language in official policy and broader society, these children faced a deluge of exclusionary practices in the classroom and beyond.
Frontiers of Belonging traces the educational paths of refugee youth arriving in Switzerland amid the shifting sociopolitical terrain of the refugee crisis and the underlying hierarchies of deservingness. Lems reveals how these minors sought protection and support, especially in educational settings, but were instead treated as threats to the economic and cultural integrity of Switzerland. Each chapter highlights a specific child's story—Jamila, Meron, Samuel, and more—as they found themselves left out, while on paper being allowed "in." The result is a highly ambiguous social reality for young refugees, resulting in stressful, existential balancing acts.
A captivating ethnography, Frontiers of Belonging allows readers into the Swiss classrooms where unspoken distinctions between self and other, guest and host, refugee and resident, were formed, policed, and challenged.
1. On Doing "Being Normal"
2. The Model(led) Pupil
3. The Poster Child of Integration
4. The Unlucky Many
5. The Integration Pilot
6. Existential Balancing Acts
This book makes important contributions to scholarship in the fields of anthropology and refuge/migration studies. Most ethnographies of forced migration tend to focus on adult refugees. Lems provides an intimate, close-up look into the experiences of teenage unaccompanied minors.~Nell Gabiam, Iowa State University
Frontiers of Belonging beautifully and tragically renders the concept of 'exclusive inclusion' by exploring the stories of several unaccompanied refugee youth in Switzerland. . . . It calls our attention to the vast discrepancy between who refugees know themselves to be and what the Swiss bureaucracy, and the pedagogical agents (pedagogues) who come into everyday contact with refugees believes they are. . . . It is emotionally evocative and thought provoking.~Jennifer Riggan, Arcadia University
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology: The futile hope for integration: How young refugees fail in the education system