Accepted Papers:

Troubling the construct: liberating TCK identity through desire  


Jean Swindle (The University of Alabama)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper embarks upon questioning the fundamental construction of what Pollock and Van Reken (2003) termed the Third Culture Kid, or TCK, or those children who have spent their formative educational years outside of their passport country.

Paper long abstract:

Third Cultures Kids are lauded for their international travel, ability to speak multiple languages, and global perspective but have also been identified as plagued by a sense of cultural homelessness, difficulty upon repatriations, and a lack of positive affect (Pollock & Van Reken, 2003; Dewaele & van Oudenhoven, 2009; Peterson & Plamondon. 2009). Research on TCKs has unquestionably used the Pollock and Van Reken definition of a TCK and relied on the characteristics noted in the seminal text to formulate a list TCKs characteristics. This paper challenges these assumptions and use Derridean deconstructionist and Deleuzian lenses to interrogate the way in which the denominated TCK has been socially- and scholarly-constructed. Deconstruction "results in a destabilizing of that which we have unproblematically come to accept" (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012, p. 17), and it would appear as if the definition of a Third Culture Kid has fallen into the error of de-constructing then re-constructing (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012). There is the potential for a broader reading of how international experiences constitute a child's identity. Using data from an ethnographic pilot study, the life stories and descriptive narratives of five TCKs between the ages of 18-35 are used to explore the TCK identity through the aforementioned theoretical lenses. The findings present titillating possibilities for different sorts of knowledge production on TCK research and lead to asking different sets of questions that expand the TCK dialogue beyond merely understanding context and causality to adding to the growing discourse of identity constitution and multidimensionality.

Panel P096
Child migrants or 'third culture kids'? Approaches to children and privileged mobility (ANTHROMOB)