The Road From Damascus : New Arrival Immigrant Families and The Swedish Preschool

Sammanfattning: The overall aim of this doctoral thesis is to examine the perceptions that new arrival immigrant families have of Swedish preschool, and the perceptions of these families as expressed by the Swedish state preschool political discourse over the last fifty-year period. For this purpose, the study uses critical discourse analysis, as proposed by Norman Fairclough. CDA is applied both as theory and as analytical method. The study is empirically grounded and borrows Fairclough’s three-dimensional model of discourse for the analysis of 19 texts produced by new arrival Syrian families, along with  policy documents, the reports of government commissions and government bills dealing with preschool in relation to immigration. The study focuses on two main themes that are predominant in both texts—language learning (Swedish and mother tongue) and belonging—and shows how they are used to express and assign agency.In the study, special attention is paid to the use of verbs, pronouns and adjectives as linguistic parameters for analyzing representations of relational and action processes, as well as social actor representations. The thesis consists of three empirical chapters: New Arrival Immigrant Families’ Discourse about Language Learning, New Arrival Immigrant Families’ Discourse about Belonging and Preschool, and New Arrival Immigrant Children as a Concern for Preschool. The first two chapters demonstrate a high degree of agency employed by the parents and their children in relation to language learning and being at preschool, reflected in their use of verbs and pronouns. The last chapter demonstrates how, over a period of fifty years, state preschool political discourse has perceived and constructed immigrant children and their parents in relation to preschool. The analysis reveals points of convergence and divergence between the parents’ and the state’s discursive practices about preschool as a place for language learning and belonging. For instance, in the state discourse, immigrant children’s language learning and belonging are defined in terms of their needs and immigrant experience. In the parents’ writings, these themes are emphasized in relation to the children’s development and wellbeing. The study emphasizes the importance of culture-conscious work, in which the shared interests and expectations of both parties are highlighted, rather than only the differences in their views. Preschool is further discussed as presenting an ideological dilemma, allowing for contradictory ideals to coexist as a reflection of the political diversity of Swedish society.