UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Pathologies and complicities : high school and the identities of disaffected South Asian "Brown boys" Sayani, Anish


This study is a response to a growing disquietude in many schools in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia that there is “something wrong” with South Asian boys. During the past twenty years, approximately 100 South Asian young men have been killed as a result of criminal violence (Ministry Report, 2006), with these murder numbers steadily increasing each month. Reports from think-tanks and informal conversations and surveys with teachers and administrators in schools with high populations of South Asian students all support disturbing levels of academic failure and disaffection. Since there are no reliable data or very few published studies about the school experiences and achievement of South Asian students, educators do not understand the magnitude of this problem. Using a three-dimensional narrative methodology (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000), this study, therefore, investigated how the schooling experiences of disaffected South Asian male students may exacerbate or alleviate the problem of disaffection. Specifically, it sought to understand South Asian male students' school experiences (including experiences of inclusion, marginalization, disaffection, success, and failure); and how educators and educational leaders understand and relate to their South Asian students. Eight months of ethnographic fieldwork at a mid-size secondary school in a Vancouver suburb and sixty-one interviews conducted with students, educators, and educational leaders generated several key findings. The study showed that the educators and educational leaders at this school pathologized the lived experiences of the “Brown boys”; engaged in deficit theorizing discourses and practices; failed to mobilize the identities of the “Brown boys” in the classrooms; and excluded the “Brown boys” and community members from authorizing their perspectives to inform disciplinary and other school practice-shaping decisions. This study also showed that the Brown boys were complicit in the pathologizing of their own identities, which among other detrimental effects, exacerbated their disaffection at school. Through narratives and first hand voices of the participants, this study attempts to provide all educators and educational leaders new ways to understand the schooling experiences of disaffected South Asian male students and possibly even to mitigate the schooling factors that may exacerbate the disaffection of all minoritized students.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International