The Gift of Education? Learning, migration and intergenerational relations among Karen refugees in Thailand and the United Kingdom
Focusing on the Karen people from Burma/Myanmar in Thailand and in the United Kingdom, this talk analyses how global, regional and local developments affect patterns of learning. Based on Marcel Mauss´ theory of the gift, the speaker will suggest considering “education” as a gift that establishes unequal relationships between those who give and those who receive education. Pia Jolliffe argues whether or not relations between educators and pupils remain unequal largely depends on the opportunities learners have to pass on their knowledge to younger generations, or to render it useful for their elders. But if such opportunities do not exist, for example within the constraints of refugee camps - an awkward situation is created in which the young remain unable to return the 'gift' they received from their elders. In hertalk Dr Jolliffe will illustrate this argument with ethnographic research conducted among Karen refugees from Eastern Myanmar who live in Thailand and as resettled refugees in the United Kingdom. Findings indicate the high value Karen people place on traditional and modern forms of learning including increasing aspirations for formal higher education. At the same time, the speaker's research evidences that, when the young receive education without being able to use their knowledge to access higher education or professional occupations, they feel disappointed and question the use of formal learning.
Dr Pia Jolliffe is a member of the Las Casas Institute as a research scholar of Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford. She is also Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing. Her publications focus on life transitions and aspirations within a context of migration and international development, refugees as well as the role of prisons and forced labour during the colonization of Japan´s northern island Hokkaido.