Accepted Paper:

Children and youth as diversity managers: religion, ethnicity and gender in Swiss schools  


Brigit Allenbach (Universität Fribourg, CH)
Pascale Herzig (University of Fribourg)
Monika Müller (Universität Fribourg, CH)

Paper short abstract:

The contribution analyses focus group discussions with schoolchildren and youth about religious diversity in Switzerland. The aim of this paper is to illustrate the participants' strategies to manage diversity in the school class.

Paper long abstract:

Experiencing diversity and mutuality is the normal course of life in Swiss schools. In focus group discussions, nine to sixteen year-old schoolchildren employ a wide spectrum of constructions of insiders and outsiders. This is best illustrated by the participants' own questions: Who is ascribed as a foreigner in Switzerland? Do only people from the Balkans conform to this category, while an Italian classmate does not? Would it be easier to just call oneself a human being or a European instead of specifying one's nationality or religious belonging? What is there about gender stereotypes within the category of Muslims: are all boys violent and all girls victims? And who is a "true" Muslim anyway? Is it different to live as a Hindu in urban and rural areas? The heterogeneity of focus groups regarding religion, ethnicity or gender seems to be crucial for the participants' categorisations of mutuality and diversity, as well as for their strategies of alliance building and dealing with dominance or subordination. To demonstrate how children and youth embody religion and belief in schools, we propose to put the intersections of religion with other categories of difference into context. Given the increasing significance of identity politics in the public domain, it should be the task of social science research to highlight the multiple dimensions of belonging employed by children and youth. This perspective may help to prevent hasty policies that consider only one notion of difference such as religion, ethnicity or gender.

Panel W031
Children, youth and religion: visions of mutuality and diversity across generations