Sovereignty, citizenship and educating refugees in the United States

Jill Koyama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Public education in the United States acts as a governmental tool of neoliberalism, through which state power and sovereignty are deployed and transformed in daily life. Here, I examine how the divergence of sovereignty is exerted over refugee students and their families in US public education. Drawing on 42 months of ethnographic data collected on refugee and other immigrant networks in Southern Arizona, a US–Mexico border region marked by increasing anti-immigrant policies and practices, I reveal how the everyday practices and policies of one school district reflect and reinforce the government’s control over refugee students. I argue that the ways in which the students are sorted, marginalized, and denied opportunities as learners is inextricable from their positioning as non-citizens by the federal and state governments. Specifically, I demonstrate the linkages between the federal education policy, Every School Succeeds Act, Arizona State’s Proposition 203: English Language Education for the Children in Public Schools, which eliminated bilingual education, and the school district’s approach to teaching refugee students. Finally, I offer recommendations for creating more inclusive, assets-based learning environments for refugee students that push back against the neoliberal favoring of competition and one-size-fits-all solutions in public education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-328
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Educational Research Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020


  • Refugees
  • United States
  • neoliberalism
  • policy
  • public education
  • sovereignty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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