Articles | Volume 72, issue 2
Standard article
16 May 2017
Standard article |  | 16 May 2017

Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers – processes of subject formation and feelings of belonging in the context of educational experiences in Switzerland

Barbara Bitzi and Sara Landolt

Abstract. This article addresses unaccompanied minor asylum seekers' (UAMs) educational experiences in Switzerland. Drawing on ethnographic research we explore what it means for UAMs to get an education and how having access or not having access to particular forms and spaces of education plays a part in the process of their subject formations. We get insights into such processes in diverse spaces of education and in phases of transition between them. We point out how educational arrangements can produce feelings of belonging and non-belonging and highlight that these feelings are entangled with life experiences and the responsibilities of UAMs in their daily lives in Switzerland. We argue that although at first glance the category unaccompanied minor asylum seeker seems to dominate and determine the formation of a possible educational subject and feelings of belonging for UAMs, the subject formation and feelings of belonging in the highly regulated field of UAMs' education are far more complex and fluid. To capture this complexity, we draw on geographies of education and understand spaces of education as connected to other spaces as UAMs' learning and educational processes are entangled with the demands of their everyday lives.

Short summary
Drawing on ethnographic research in a center for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers (UAM) in Switzerland we explored educational experiences of UAM. Our results show that attending internal schools should be time-bound as it can hinder the recognition of UAM’s previously acquired educational knowledge. Further, UAM attending mainstream schools experience feelings of not belonging, which seem to be caused by having the life experiences of a UAM and stereotypes about refugees and asylum seekers.