"If you write poems, it's like a crime there": a case study of literacy learning, identity curation and migration

Virginie Theriault

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ) (2015) notes that refugees and immigrant women tend to achieve low levels of literacy skills in PIAAC. This paper aims at offering an alternative point of view on these results by presenting the case of Darya, a young Afghan woman who moved to Canada as a refugee. Following the New Literacy Studies (see Papen, 2005), this paper starts from the premise that literacy cannot be defined as the simple aptitude to read and write and needs to be understood in its socially and historically situated contexts and as social practice. The concept of rapport à l’écrit (Besse, 1995) is also used and refers to people’s relationship with literacy that evolves over time. The paper draws on data collected in 2012 and 2013 in two community-based organisations for young people in Quebec. Darya attended social and professional workshops in one of them. The data related to Darya―an interview transcript, observation notes, and audio recordings―were analysed thematically. The findings indicate that Darya had rich literacy practices and liked to read and write. She regularly wrote poems and songs, used online translation tools, and posted content on Facebook. The results suggest that these practices, and others, were associated with ‘identity curation’ (Davies, 2014) and helped Darya to negotiate her ‘transnational’ identity (McGinnis, Goodstein-Stolzenberg, and Saliani, 2007). Her rapport à l’écrit was rooted in her transnational identity, migration experience and family history. The paper also presents how the community-based organisation addressed these aspects during its activities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2016
Event8th Triennial European Research Conference - Maynooth University, Maynooth, Ireland
Duration: 8 Sept 201611 Sept 2016


Conference8th Triennial European Research Conference
Internet address


  • literacy skills
  • adult literacy
  • migration
  • immigrant women
  • refugees
  • identity curation


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