In Between a Rock and a Third Space: The Hidden Cultural Spaces Facilitating Somali Youth Entry into Post-Secondary Education.

Authors: Isma Yusuf*, University of Western Ontario, Dr. Emmanuel Kyeremeh, University of Western Ontario, Dr. Godwin Arku, University of Western Ontario, Eunice Akua Annan-Aggrey , University of Western Ontario
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Education , Religion and Belief Systems
Keywords: Somali-Canadians, education, third place, forms of capital, geographies of belonging
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 25
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Much of the literature coming out of the new millennium on education and Somalis finds the Somali-Canadian academic trajectory as one rife with institutional racism and spatial exemption. Students experience academic marginalization in the form of schools streaming them into lower educational ranks (applied versus academic; special education programming; ESL classes even when fluent in English), higher suspension rates, as well as hostile interactions with teachers and students treating their black and Muslim identity as suspect. In response to this marginalization, diasporic Somalis have collectively turned inward to support and cultivate their youths’ pathways toward postsecondary schooling — a reality that is seldom unpacked. Using Oldgenburg’s concept of “third place”, this qualitative study unpacks how Somali-Canadians rely and draw upon concealed cultural spaces within the city to facilitate entry into (or continuance within) higher education. Twenty-six semi-structured interviews were conducted with second-generation Somali-Canadian youth, aided by the data collection strategy of snowball sampling. Findings reveal that these culturally-unique, authentically Somali spaces (e.g. Qur'an classes, Somali mosques, and ethno-religious shops) provide second-generation Somalis with differing forms of capital — financial, spiritual, human capital and cultural resources— salient to their trajectories toward higher education. This study reads Oldgenburg’s “third place” intertextually with Bourdieu’s “forms of capital” to analyze the relationship with space, identity and collectivism within the diaspora.

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