Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Barker-Ruchti, N., Barker, D., Sattler, S., Gerber, M., Pühse, U.
Second Generation Immigrant Girls’ Negotiations of Cultural Proximity in Switzerland: A Foucauldian Reading
(2015) Journal of International Migration and Integration, 16 (4), pp. 1213-1229.

DOI: 10.1007/s12134-014-0386-9

Although overtly racist political discourse in Switzerland has receded, culturalist discourses continue to construct ideal immigrants. Policies define immigrants in terms of “cultural proximity” and contain an implicit distinction between “distant” and “proximal” foreigners. Culturally, distant immigrants have been stereotyped as aggressive and/or lacking interest in education and professional success and while scholars have examined immigrants from Switzerland’s “culturally-near” regions, the experiences of second generation immigrant populations from perceived culturally distant countries have largely escaped attention. Knowledge about girls and women is particularly scarce. Against this backdrop, this paper provides an examination of how six teenage girls living in a German-speaking Swiss city negotiate their perceived cultural distance. By combining interview material with elements of Foucauldian theory, the paper provides insight into (1) the diasporic experiences of girls with second generation immigration backgrounds and (2) the operation and influence of culturalist discourses.

Foucault’s notion of dispositive—the discourses, institutions, laws, and scientific findings that, through various means of distribution (e.g., media texts, policies, education curricula), act as an apparatus that constructs and supports normative ideals—provides a generative analytic tool for this task. The analysis suggests that the ways girls learn to understand their social worlds is a collective process of discipline that places mechanisms of social control within each individual. This process involves the homogenisation and marginalisation of the immigrant population and is circular in nature in that the girls strengthen and maintain the power of existing culturalist knowledge that works negatively on them. The paper concludes with a consideration of how this situation might be challenged. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

Author Keywords
Culturalist discourses; Dispositive; Foucault; Gender; Perceived cultural distance; Second generation immigrant girls

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