Becoming Korean and American: a microethnography of Korean children's socialization in an American preschool
Ziesler, Yasmine Levora
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This study examines the socialization of sharing behaviors in a transnational population of Korean children in greater Boston, Massachusetts and South Korea. Data for this study include the author's experiences living in South Korea from 1995 to 1996, ethnographic fieldwork in the Korean community of greater Boston from 1999 to 2002, five weeks of classroom observation and home visits in South Korea in the summer of 2001, and weekly microethnographic observations of seventeen children from January 2001 to June 2002. Korean culture is broadly construed as "sociocentric" in contrast to "individualistic" American culture. Descriptions ofhome and school life demonstrate this contrast in strategies for sharing limited resources. Korean strategies for sharing emphasize a generalized joint use of resources katchi (together) while American strategies emphasize litigation of individual rights through tum-taking procedures. This study describes the socialization of transnational Korean children who encounter these contrasting cultural strategies for sharing. Through a microethnographic examination of the experiences of individual children over time, the study offers several contributions to culture and socialization theory. First, a description of the Korean community of greater Boston challenges assumptions in education research that define public schools as a place of "mainstream American" culture in contrast to the culture of minority children's homes and ethnic communities. The Korean community of greater Boston described in this study is a heterogeneous continuum of immigrant and sojourner families living in patterns of dense settlement and school enrollment. A child may interact almost exclusively with ethnic Korean peers at school and yet practice American behaviors in these interactions. The second major contribution of this work is to outline a microethnographic approach to studying children's development over time. In comparisons of the behaviors of five individual children, this study highlights a common developmental trajectory towards greater self-assertiveness in sharing behaviors and also exposes individual variations in experience and behavior. By focusing on the socialization of specific behaviors in a small number of individuals, this study provides evidence for a model of cultural socialization as the unique individual accumulation of knowledge, motivation, and practice.
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