Using Symbolic Resources to Overcome Institutional Barriers: A Case Study of an Albanian-Speaking Young Woman in Switzerland

  • Teuta MehmetiEmail author
  • Tania Zittoun
Part of the Cultural Psychology of Education book series (CPED, volume 10)


The school failure of migrant children is often explained by their supposed cultural deficit and by mechanisms of social inequalities reproduced by the school institution. However, such hypotheses fail to account for learning trajectories that would escape from social or cultural determinism. For this, we need to turn to students’ own school experiences, about which little is known. In this chapter, we draw on a sociocultural psychological approach that considers the interdependency between sociocultural contexts and personal life trajectories to go beyond a deficit approach. More specifically, we examine how migrant children’s uses of cultural elements can support their meaning-making when confronted to settings preventing their involvement. By means of a case study, we show how a young Kosovar woman in Switzerland performed well at school, overcoming social and institutional barriers. We, moreover, show how rather than nurturing a conflictual relationship with the school institution, she could draw on different symbolic resources that favored her involvement at school. We thus argue for the necessity to study school experiences of migrant children as dynamics involving a creative dialogue between home and school through the use of cultural and symbolic resources, and discuss theoretical and practical implications of such a perspective.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NeuchâtelNeuchâtelSwitzerland

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