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date: 08 December 2023

Immigration, Incarceration, and Cultural Exclusion in Curriculumlocked

Immigration, Incarceration, and Cultural Exclusion in Curriculumlocked

  • Suniti SharmaSuniti SharmaSaint Joseph's University


In the 21st century, curriculum studies scholars agree that the United States is a land of immigrants; however, questions about who constitutes an immigrant, how immigrants are identified and categorized, why immigrants are disproportionately incarcerated, and how each group relates to the institutionally established dominant order continue to be highly contested. Deconstruction of political, educational, and policy discourses within terms of inclusion and exclusion have generated much academic debate and political controversy. While debates and controversies continue to expand how scholars understand immigration, incarceration, and cultural exclusion, a common thread in curriculum scholarship is how to respond inclusively and equitably to increasing multicultural diversity. This tension has pushed the field of curriculum studies to challenge historical discourses linking immigration to incarceration, examine the role of education in reproducing exclusion, and highlight the immigrant experience of activism for political inclusion and equal educational opportunities. A study of historical movements and contemporary debates across disciplines underscores four discursive trends in curriculum. The first discourse shapes the construction of identity, such as who is considered an American and who is an immigrant other. The political predominance of White identity as representative of “American” is designed to systematically exclude Native American, African American, and Asian American experiences from curricula processes through policies that enforce assimilation in schools, English-only norms, and banning ethnic studies. A second discourse links immigration and incarceration to cultural exclusion in curriculum constructed along the color line and defined by race relations. Relations of power within the traditional curriculum privilege Whiteness in disciplinary knowledge while simultaneously subjecting cultural diversity and differences to behavioral or academic interventions. A third discourse advocates critical frameworks and methodologies for teaching and research that advance curricula and cultural inclusion. Methodologies such as critical race theory and decoloniality offer tools for analyzing the dynamics of power in race relations and confronting racism while border thinking and autohistoria open curriculum research to exploring the lived experiences of the excluded as alternative knowledges worth knowing. A fourth discourse repositions immigrant experience, resistance, and activism as funds of knowledge worth knowing in an energetic and inclusive curriculum. In the 21st century, curriculum studies continues to raise public consciousness on curricula inclusion at the intersection of public policy, individual identity, and collective knowledge as the basis for educational change.


  • Curriculum and Pedagogy
  • Education, Cultures, and Ethnicities
  • Education and Society

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