Young Children’s Racial-Cultural Identity Negotiation and Development:A Phenomenological Case Study

Heejeong Sophia Han
page. 97~120 / 2015 Vol.9 No.2


This article reports on a phenomenological case study following one Korean-American child’snegotiation and development of racial-cultural identity in the United States during the first three years ofschool. This study aimed to closely explore, understand, and explain the critical incidents experienced bya Korean-American child to recognize and negotiate her racial-cultural identity, and the strategies sheused to navigate through the school culture. As a result, four themes were identified with the followingmetaphors: (a) Just give me a sandwich – Avoiding attention; (b) I must have been a slave – Trying to fitin; (c) It is my cultural water – Speaking up; and (d) I can be both – Reconstructing flexible identities.This study offers a glimpse into a complex nature of a Korean-American child’s racial-cultural identitynegotiation and development in the United States calling for an expanded discourse around the issue, andsheds a light on what roles teachers and parents can play to collaboratively address and scaffold theexperiences.

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