This week the New York Times ran an article ‘Immigrants See Charter Schools as a Haven’ in which they focused on Somali immigrants living in Minneapolis. (Minneapolis is home to the largest Somali population in the U.S., and Columbus is home to the second largest.) Check out the slide show linked to the article. The article portrays the immigrant parents as wanting their children to develop strong dual identities (American and Somali) and multilingual competence, sheltered from American youth culture. Interestingly, the article does not mention that students study Arabic at the charter school.
With Laura Joseph, Assistant Director of the Center for African Studies, I have been awarded a Ohio Humanities Council Grant ($15,000) for the development, digital documentation & dissemination of K-12 Teachers Institute on Somali history, language, & culture. The Center of African Studies has also granted us $8000 from their UISFL (Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language) grant from the US Department of Education. The institute will be held in June 2009, hosted by the Somali Women & Children’s Alliance and facilitated by EHE’s Office of Outreach and Engagement.
An article of mine, Body, text, and talk in Maroua Fulbe Qur’anic schooling, has appeared in Text & Talk. It is part of a special issue, The spirit of reading: practices of reading sacred texts, edited by Laura Sterponi, UC Berkeley. In this article, I present a language socialization approach to the study of Qur’anic schooling. Integrating insights from holistic study of the community and the institution, analysis of video recordings of Qur’anic school interaction, and video playback and interviews with community members, I describe the apprenticeship of Fulbe children into Qur’anic orality and literacy as a gradual transfer of responsibility for rendering the sacred text. I conclude by discussing how the language socialization perspective and attention to multiple modalities increase our understanding of Qur’anic schooling as an activity setting in which Muslim subjectivities come into being.