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National Identity in Higher Education: The Guardianship of a Kingdom
Bodine Al-Sharif, Mary Ann
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Changes in the structure of higher education in Saudi Arabia and through advanced scholarship programs abroad have resulted in an educational reformation within the country. Though the Saudi Monarchy desires to create a knowledge-based society through higher education (Al-Sultan & Alzaharnah, 2012; Romani, 2009), there is also the desire to use education as an instrument of political and social control (Moughrabi, 2009). As more Saudi students’ participate in higher education abroad, a greater likelihood exist that they will gain a heightened awareness of the world around them, participate in political discourse and begin to scrutinize their ruling body (Khalaf & Luciani, 2006). Therefore the purpose of this research was to explore how, if at all, Saudi students talked about making meaning of their national identity since participating in a study abroad opportunity in higher education in the United States. This was accomplished through critical discourse analysis using the lens of a new collective identity model that was structured through a borderlands approach. The findings from the study revealed that Saudi students make meaning of their national identity by examining and reflecting on their perceptions of self in relation to their environments both in Saudi Arabia and the United States, as well as by recognizing and coming to terms with their preconceived perceptions, both real and non-existent, of others based on their commitment to their own individual constructs of identity and that of their collective. Recommendations for future research and program development are included. Keywords: identity development, collective identity, social constructs of identity, Saudi Arabia, higher education, women’s rights, Saudi educational systems
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