Higher Education and Social Mobility in France : Challenges and Possibilities among Descendants of North African Immigrants book cover
1st Edition

Higher Education and Social Mobility in France
Challenges and Possibilities among Descendants of North African Immigrants

ISBN 9781472480545
Published December 31, 2020 by Routledge
188 Pages

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Book Description

This book offers an in-depth sociological exploration of the social trajectories and experiences of children of post-colonial immigrants in France who are embarking on paths of extreme upward intergenerational mobility. The author draws on life history interviews with young adults of North African immigrant background, enrolled at or having recently graduated from the country’s elite higher education institutions, the grandes écoles, to delve into largely under-researched pathways and give a voice to high-achieving members of a population that continues to be collectively associated with difficulties to ‘integrate’. The volume constitutes the first sociological study to document, from the individual actor’s perspective, the everyday experience of racism within France’s elite educational institutions and to reveal the upward mobility experience to be informed by the interlocking effects of racial processes, immigrant ancestry, class background, and gender. Challenging the pervasive representation of descendants of North African immigrants as ‘unsuccessful’ and ‘unable to integrate’, this book sheds light on the experiences of the largely silent upwardly mobile members of a stigmatized minority group, revealing the strategies used to respond to the constraints to their mobility and the importance of familial histories of post-colonial migration, characterized by the former generation’s efforts, sacrifices, and resilience, in informing these ‘success stories’.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Succeeding with, Succeeding for Them

3. Routes to Elite Higher Education Institutions

4. ‘The Price of the Ticket’: Class, Race, and Gender Hierarchies in Elite Higher Education Institutions

5. Forging a Sense of Place in Elite Academic Spaces: ‘Accommodating Without Assimilating’

6. From the Grande École to the Middle Class: Uncertain Journeys Ahead


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Shirin Shahrokni is Assistant Professor of Sociology at York University, Glendon Campus in Toronto, Canada.


"This work promises to durably shake up our understandings of higher education and social mobility, while offering important new insights into the reproduction of race inequities at the heart of the French republic. A must read."

Elaine Coburn, Director of the Centre for Feminist Research, York University, Canada

"Challenging some core assumptions underlying France's model of integration and national imaginary, Shirin Shahrokni's book is a timely, compelling and critical contribution to international scholarship on race, class, migration, higher education and society. Essential reading for anyone concerned with higher education and social justice."

Aziz Choudry, University of Johannesburg, South Africa