Theses Doctoral

Migrant Joseonjok children's critical inquiries about the politics of belonging in Korea

Ryu, Yeonghwi

In this study, through a group of children’s critical inquiries about migrant belonging, I aimed to understand migrant children’s epistemic privilege and generate a counter-narrative against the predominant problem-based framing of migrant children. To achieve the research purpose, the guiding questions I set forth are the following:

1. What issues, problems, and questions regarding migrant belonging do a group of migrant children bring to the surface?

2. How do the children investigate those issues, problems, and questions?

3. What role does the researcher play in the child-led critical inquiry process?

To address the questions, 33 critical inquiry sessions were held from 2019 to 2020 in an afterschool class in a Korean elementary school. At the intersection of practitioner research tradition and a participatory approach, this study oriented itself toward reflexive, action-oriented research. The findings suggest that the children’s engagement in critical inquiries brought methodological dilemmas, posing questions to my assumptions about the research topics as well as to my plans, and shifted research design. These complexities caused by children demonstrated that critical inquiries involve generative possibilities wherein not only children can generate knowledges but researchers also reconstruct one’s preconceptions and better understand the research topics, ultimately developing better research design. In addition, children demonstrated their insights about migrant belonging by reconceptualizing belonging from a migrant Joseonjok child’s perspective.

The children also taught people how othering practices were at work in Korean society and impacted their belonging. Based on the generated knowledges, the children, on the one hand, created counter-narratives and informed us about how to rethink migrant belonging in South Korea and, on the other hand, attempted to counteract othering practices, which let me reconsider what “action” would mean in the critical inquiries. With these findings, I discuss migrant children’s epistemic privilege, particularly regarding their insights about the nation-building project in South Korea, how children navigate the critical inquiries, and researcher’s role in the critical inquiries. The discussion generates implications for researchers in the field of curriculum studies and qualitative methodology and for practitioners and curriculum designers who conduct critical inquiries with children.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Paula Ghiso, Maria Paula
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 15, 2022