Language Education Policy Studies
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WHO IS DISPLACED? for Making Empathetic Multilingual Environments in Schools (MEMES)

You may fill out an interest form here.

"Defining" Displacement:

More than 65 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide (UNHCR, 2016), and the number is probably modest. 

A clarification for this project:

The term im/migrant is often used for newcomers, but a broader notion of displacement includes those people displaced by:


  • war, such as Syrians today. Many are refugees: often a legal term for those who have immigration status based on legal asylum


  • violence, poverty, or policies related to ethnicity (from places worldwide from Central and South America, SW Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, etc.)


  • students displaced by natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean


This broader definition includes:


  • Native American and Indigenous peoples—displaced onto reservations, into boarding schools, then often off reservations into urban areas, much potential loss of language and sociocultural practices


  • African American or sub-Saharan African origin (in U.S. & Europe especially, but also Caribbean), depending on location and generation, may be displaced relative to sense of identity and origin, and school practices that do not value home culture



Most im/migrants have been forcibly displaced because of these above factors, therefore diversity often represents displacement.


Two more important nuances:

  • undocumented and
  • intergenerational: 2nd or later generations of refugees, im/migrant. This points to cultural and linguistic displacement.


The latter “Displaced” are second or later generations of refugees, im/migrants; but are not fully acculturated, and/or value or face linguistic or cultural difficulties related to their heritage.

Rationale for an educational project that targets the educators:
World news and the UN cite the crisis of children out of school and promise education for refugees. Huge numbers of persons displaced—by war, natural disasters, ethnic violence, economic realities—enter host countries worldwide. Access to school is difficult. Education covers language, as there is no education without language. Cultural, political ignorance, media disinformation, and monolingual, standardized school policies create a situation where everyone, including teachers, need resources.

The 21st century is a century of massive displacement (in which we live!), with millions of families who are forcibly displaced. In the host societies, the result is shifting demographics. Part of the transition to new societies happens in schools. School knowledge is standardized, and along with testing, students need to learn the language quickly. The issue of displacement and immigration is heavily debated in the media, and some negative connotations may effect those in power to make policy. Teachers are caught in the middle because the students are sitting in their classrooms.

Memes today are the popular word for pictures with captions, often shared in Facebook or other social media. However, the idea of memetics runs deeper than today’s memes. Memetics involves the replication of culture and its ideas, human cultural transmission analogous to genes. The memes we will propose are purposeful and meaningful, and the acronym helps us draw attention to this project.

The next page is about plurilingual pedagogy or Translanguaging classroom strategies.

Students at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy in New York City are taking their first steps to adjusting to life in a U.S. classroom. This year's class of 118 students comes from families who have been granted asylum in the U.S. The NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano has the story.

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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Harrison, K. M. (2017). Defining Displacement: Making Empathetic Multilingual Environments in Schools. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from:
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