Coercive Concern: Nationalism, Liberalism, and the Schooling of Muslim Youth

In This Review

Coercive Concern: Nationalism, Liberalism, and the Schooling of Muslim Youth
By Reva Jaffe-Walter
Stanford University Press, 2016
232 pp.
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Jaffe-Walter is an anthropologist whose research involves spending time in schools in various countries and talking to immigrant students about how they think and feel about the schools’ treatment of them. This book is based on interviews with Muslim girls in a liberal, multicultural school in Denmark—a place where one would expect to find open-minded attitudes toward other cultures and ways of life. Yet the author claims that the school’s teachers, despite their good intentions, tend to have negative views of the cultures from which the students come and seek to inculcate into the students a narrow model of proper Danish behavior, especially when it comes to sex, marriage, religion, and external appearance. The students feel stereotyped and find much of their teachers’ advice unwelcome. The author makes no effort to show that her sample is representative and relies on the type of jargon that drags down so much academic writing. Still, this book is worth reading for the verbatim notes of her conversations with her subjects, which bring to life the difficulties and dilemmas of cultural assimilation in Europe. 

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