Knowing Silence

How Children Talk about Immigration Status in School

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Ariana Mangual Figueroa

There is a persistent assumption in the field of education that children are largely unaware of their immigration status and its implications. In Knowing Silence, Ariana Mangual Figueroa challenges this “myth of ignorance.” By listening carefully to both the speech and significant silences of six Latina students from mixed-immigration-status families, from elementary school into middle school and beyond, she reveals the complex ways young people understand and negotiate immigration status and its impact on their lives.

Providing these children with iPod Touches to record their own conversations, Mangual Figueroa observes when and how they choose to talk about citizenship at home, at school, and in public spaces. Analyzing family conversations about school forms, in-class writing assignments, encounters with the police, and applications for college, she demonstrates that children grapple with the realities of citizenship from an early age. Educators who underestimate children’s knowledge, Mangual Figueroa shows, can marginalize or misunderstand these students and their families.

Combining significant empirical findings with reflections on the ethical questions surrounding research and responsibility, Mangual Figueroa models new ways scholars might collaborate with educators, children, and families. With rigorous and innovative ethnographic methodologies, Knowing Silence makes audible the experiences of immigrant-origin students in their own terms, ultimately offering teachers and researchers a crucial framework for understanding citizenship in the contemporary classroom.


  • rights
    The University of Minnesota Press gratefully acknowledges support for the open-access edition of this book from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

    Portions of chapter 3 were previously published in “Speech or Silence: Undocumented Students’ Decisions to Disclose or Disguise Their Citizenship Status in School,” American Educational Research Journal 54, no. 3 (2017): 485–523.

    Copyright 2024 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota
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    University of Minnesota Press
  • publisher place
    Minneapolis, MN
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    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
  • rights holder
    Regents of the University of Minnesota
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