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Dissonant Images of History?

School today
Austria has become an immigration country. The background and history of youngsters attending school has substantially changed, what has effects on historical awareness and identity construction.
© Votova, Vienna

Project: Dissonant Images of History? An Empirical Investigation of Historical Awareness and Identity Construction in Youth of Migrant Backgrounds in Vienna

One goal of the project is to gain and further knowledge and understanding of the historical awareness of young people with migrant backgrounds, and of the related questions of identity construction in this group. This complex of problems opens up, in Austria, completely new research territory. It has certainly not been explicitly worked on as far as its significance for instruction in schools is concerned.

The project has far more to contribute than purely academic knowledge. We consider our investigation to be laying the groundwork for tackling questions of intercultural pedagogy and teaching methodology. We expect to draw from the results conclusions for education policy and for school practice. The project will therefore not only open up a new area of academic discourse, but at the same time it will set up a connection between theory and practice.

The framework of the proposed project rests on the empirical fact that Austria has become an immigration country, and that the background and history of youngsters attending school has substantially changed. Individual and family biographies clearly differ from one another, as do collective histories and the historical and political experiences handed down to the pupils. We are proceeding from the assumption that insufficient attention is being paid to this heterogeneous class structure in school instruction in general, and in the imparting of images of history and historical awareness in particular. We see the other side of this coin in the fact that school instruction is holding fast to the handing down of national Austrian narratives.

The second point of departure of the project is constituted by theoretical and empirical insights into the identity structure of young people in the context of migration. In this, our work rests on three basic theses:

  1. We see the development of identity as a process of active grappling with the environment, with the generalized other.
  2. We start from the assumption that the individual can only develop his/her own identity when s/he is aware of his/her history (an individual's own biography as well as the collective history of the reference group.)
  3. School is understood to be one of the most important channels of socialization and a conveyor of historical images and historical awareness.

Against this background two leading research questions are of central interest to us:

  1. What views of history, what narratives are present in the consciousness of young people coming from migrant backgrounds?
  2. What meaning do national Austrian narratives conveyed through school instruction have in the process of identity formation in young people of migrant backgrounds, what meaning do they have in themselves as well as in relation to the meaning of narratives inherited from the land of origin (of the family).

We are making these questions operational by focusing them on central Austrian narratives and discourses. We have selected various topics (for example Austrian neutrality) and we are dealing with them both quantitatively and also qualitatively. The target groups are pupils in Viennese schools with migrant backgrounds (upper forms of secondary schools).

The project is funded by the Jubiläumsfonds der Stadt Wien für die Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften

Executing organisation: Demokratiezentrum Wien

Project manager: Univ.-Prof. DDr. Oliver Rathkolb / Mag.a Gertraud Diendorfer

Univ.-Prof. DDr. Oliver Rathkolb oliver.rathkolb@univie.ac.at
Mag.a Gertraud Diendorfer diendorfer@demokratiezentrum.org
Mag.a Petra Dorfstätter dorfstaetter@demokratiezentrum.org
Dr.in Christiane Hintermann office@demokratiezentrum.org

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