Cultivating Convivencia: Youth and Democratic Education in Southeast Spain
AuthorTaha, Maisa C.
Immigration - Spain
Multiculturalism - Europe
Committee ChairMendoza-Denton, Norma
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractConvivencia, or conviviality/coexistence, represents a pivotal node in Spanish ideologies of multiculturalism. Long touted as the legacy of interreligious harmony in Al- Andalus (A.D. 711-1492), contemporary pedagogical convivencia involves a complex of innovative policies, curricula, and activities which idealize distinct ways of communicating and enacting egalitarianism across myriad differences. This dissertation establishes this idealization as an artifact of Spain’s historic struggles with democracy and newfound struggles with cultural pluralism from immigration. I approach education as a focal sphere in which to examine the daily construction and maintenance of this ideal. Specifically, I draw on twelve months’ fieldwork at three secondary schools in the municipality of El Ejido (Almería) to argue that the universalist bent of contemporary convivencia pedagogies tends to obscure and invalidate minority student perspectives. My primary concern lies with the experiences of Moroccan youth, who during my research belonged to the largest, most stigmatized immigrant group in the area and whose stereotyped association with patriarchy, piety, and cultural isolationism placed them at odds with the values most fervently promoted in convivencia lessons, especially gender equality. I show how one unintended consequence of these interventions was that intolerance persisted not despite, but through, lessons on tolerance—a troubling finding for a place like El Ejido, which has seen some of the worst interracial violence in Europe. Using audio recordings collected at one school during democratic education classes and related activities, I identify patterns in teacher-student and student-student interactions that reveal how convivencia was constructed (and undermined) as a discursive performance of progressivism. Stance prompting, stance assessment, and stance attribution comprised tools that allowed teachers to defend their situational and moral authority while compelling students toward self-reflection and empathy. I reveal these repertoires as exclusionary to Moroccan youth, who were positioned as “others” unqualified to speak as progressive subjects, while their native-born peers launched critiques, and even insults, with impunity. Convivencia lessons, taught through classes mandated at the national and regional levels, politicized interactions and sparked various forms of resistance or pushback from students. Using analytic frameworks from linguistic anthropology and building on studies of diversity and civic education, Spanish social history, and liberalism and modernity, I argue that the dialogues analyzed in this dissertation represent tensions ever-present in projects of democratic equality. I ultimately describe convivencia pedagogies as ritualized instantiations of dominant social norms that inadvertently ostracize rather than unite youth across differences. While the shape of these efforts have much to do with Spain’s mottled history with democracy, these findings hold significance for educators everywhere insofar as heartfelt support for seemingly unassailable ideals—including human rights, gender equality, and racial equality—can smuggle in ethnocentrist biases.
Degree ProgramGraduate College