Within U.S. higher education, there has been concern expressed about the underrepresentation of racial/ethnic minority students in U.S. study abroad programs. Though as a whole these students participate in study abroad at lower rates than their Caucasian counterparts, the fact that study abroad participation is even problematized by race/ethnicity (rather than other social categories such as gender, socioeconomic status or field of study) and the manner by which this is done warrant critical investigation. Drawing upon Foucault's concept of problematization (1984, 1988), this paper examines the discourses and practices (both discursive and nondiscursive) that mark current study abroad literature in which participation by U.S. undergraduates is tracked, categorized and ranked by race and ethnicity. It further problematizes the taken-for-granted assumptions that masquerade as truths and inhabit the methodological and analytical practices that govern research on racial and ethnic minority students, and in the process, uncovers an overarching code of thought that permeates the literature. Ultimately, this paper seeks to challenge the “truths” and counter the assumptions upon which this code of thought is based by highlighting those voices only marginally recognized in study abroad participation literature. These voices provide a local and contextualized perspective on the factors contributing to the lower rates of participation among one racial/ethnic minority category: African Americans. Although the paper does not take up the topic of language learning in study abroad contexts, it does present the real world challenge of language-in-use. It addresses the material and subject effects that a problematization of study abroad participation by race/ethnicity has on students, research practices, institutional and governmental policies, and the allocation of resources related to language study and the promotion and support of study abroad.
About the author
M'Balia Thomas is a doctoral candidate in the Interdisciplinary Program of Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, USA. Her research explores linguistic manifestations of power in foreign language education as they relate to larger social contexts of race/ethnicity, SES, gender and space.
© by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston