Jaffe-Walter, “Coercive Concern”

In March, Stanford University Press released “Coercive Concern: Nationalism, Liberalism, and the Schooling of Muslim Youth,” by Reva Jaffe-Walter (Montclair State University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Many liberal-minded Western democracies pride themselves on their commitments to egalitarianism, the fair treatment of immigrants, and the right to education. These pid_24789environments would seem to provide a best-case scenario for the reception of immigrant youth. But that is not always the case. Coercive Concern explores how stereotypes of Muslim immigrants in Western liberal societies flow through public schools into everyday interactions, informing how Muslim youth are perceived by teachers and peers. Beyond simply identifying the presence of racialized speech in schools, this book uncovers how coercive assimilation is cloaked in benevolent narratives of care and concern.

Coercive Concern provides an ethnographic critique of the “concern” that animates integration policy in Danish schools. Reva Jaffe-Walter focuses on the experiences of Muslim youth at a public school where over 40% of the student body is of immigrant descent, showing how schools operate as sites of governance. These efforts are led by political leaders who promote national fears of immigrant take-over, by teachers in schools, and by everyday citizens who are concerned about “problems” of immigration. Jaffe-Walter exposes the psychic and material costs immigrant youth endure when living in the shadow of social scrutiny, but she also charts a path forward by uncovering the resources these youth need to attain social mobility and success.

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