Kitty Li-Gottwald (IOE, UCL)

The negotiation of social relations, elitization, marginalization, and socialization in a Chinese language school in Berlin

This research aims at revealing the significance of multilingual interactions (English, German, Mandarin and Cantonese) at a Chinese language school in Berlin, Germany, for the first generation migrant-parents. It further investigates how the parental spoken interactions and their social relations at the school setting produce social inequality and reproduce the parents┬┤ social status. By focusing on the spoken interactions of the parents, I explore the role of a Chinese complementary school for the parents beyond the education of the children. In my analysis I take an ethnographic approach in order to gain an in-depth understanding of parental social interaction and social relation agendas at the school setting, which are closely discussed in relation to the parents┬┤ socioeconomic backgrounds and individual migrant trajectories.
The data consists of audio-recorded parental interactions, a series of interviews and different sets of field notes. Drawing on a discourse theoretical approach, talk and text are understood as relational practices and I pay close attention to their construction, function and variation. Parental interactions are analysed at a micro level (textual analysis), at a meso level (analysis of production and consumption) and at a macro level (social analysis), in an attempt to understand the particular social linguistic practices in the social domain of a minority language institution and the significance of such institution for the parents┬┤ engagement with life in Germany. The analysis shows how some of the parents create meaningful networks, mutual supports and group belongings which have empowered them. For other parents, these are less accessible, provide limited benefits and reproduce social inequalities. In this way, the research raises important questions concerning the differences and inequalities produced during the process of multilingual social interactions of a group of migrant parents within a domain of minority language institution in Berlin.