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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Beyond men to surveil and women to (un)veil : Muslim youth negotiating identity, home and belonging in a Canadian high school Miled, Neila


Muslims are living a precarious existence in Canada and the discomfort with Islam and Muslims is deeply entrenched in the Canadian psyche, policies, media and school curriculum. This research study explores Muslim youth identity negotiations and sense of belonging at this time of fear and uncertainty and disturbing racism and Islamophobia. It challenges the Muslim “single story”, questions being Muslim and becoming Canadian and explores the role of schools in youth identity negotiations and belonging using ethnographic methods and visual participatory methods. The study was conducted in a Canadian public high school with young Muslim women and men aged 14 to 19, to investigate how Muslim youth from diverse ethnic, cultural, and national backgrounds and with different experiences of (im)migration and displacement construct and perform their Muslimness and /or Canadianness while they are navigating their daily school experiences. The study is framed theoretically by critical theory, transnational feminism, postcolonialism, and notions of diaspora and critical identity and belonging. The different chapters center the experiences and voices of Muslims in Canada and highlight the multiple ways that they construct and perform “Muslimness”, negotiate “Canadianness” and manage the fluid and shifting “in-betweenness” that characterizes their “glocal” lives. This dissertation delves into investigating the intricacies of Muslim youth identities and belonging and also the research dilemmas emerging from the research journey. It presents the complexities of these experiences; the centrality of race and religious visibility in defining how these young women and men feel about being Muslim and /or Canadian, and the situated ways they engage with their Muslim and/ or Canadian identities, their situated belonging and the different “worlds” they are inhabiting and their ways of making sense of them. The study findings highlight that there is a shift from the essentialized self-understanding and self-representation of Muslim identity shaped by transnational belonging, global youth culture and new forms of identification and engagement with religion, culture and belonging that go beyond the assumptions of authentic Muslim identity and the territoriality of belonging. It also identifies the impact of positive school experiences on these negotiations and the participants’ sense of belonging.

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