Teachers Without Borders: Exploring Experiences, Transitions, and Identities of Refugee Women Teachers from Yugoslavia
Prior to September 11 2011, Canada was recognized as a leading advocate of international refugee protection and the third largest settlement country in the world. University educated refugees were admitted to the country in part on the basis of their education, but once in Canada their credentials were often ignored. The purpose of this study was to explore, through a transnational feminist lens, immigrant and settlement experiences of refugee female teachers from Yugoslavia who immigrated to Canada during and after the Yugoslav wars; to document the ways in which socially constructed categories such as gender, race, and refugee status have influenced their post-exile experiences and identities; and to identify the government's role in creating conditions where the women were either able or unable to continue in their profession. In this study, I employed both a transnational feminist methodology and narrative inquiry. The analysis process included an emphasis on the storying stories model, poetic transcription, and concentric storying. The women’s voices are represented in various forms throughout the document including individual and collective narratives. Each narrative contributed to a detailed picture of immigration and settlement processes as women spoke of continuing their education, knowing or learning the official language, and contributing to Canadian society and the economy. The findings challenge the image of a victimized and submissive refugee woman, and bring to the centre of discourse the image of the refugee woman as a skilled professional who often remains un- or underemployed in her new country. The dissertation makes an important contribution to an underdeveloped area in the research literature, and has the potential to inform immigration, settlement, and teacher education policies and practices in Canada and elsewhere.