Making sense of collective identity and trauma through drawing: The case study of a Palestinian refugee student

Beauregard, C.;Papazian-Zohrabian, G.; Rousseau, C. (2017)

Intercultural Education.

28(2) | 113-130.

Identity construction can be very complex for refugee children, especially for Palestinian refugee children. For refugee children, organised violence and immigration are important parts of their life experience that can lead to trauma, which in turn influences how they construct their collective identity. Schools have to consider this specific experience as the development of a meaningful identity is an important factor in refugee students’ well-being and school adjustment. School-based activities centred on creative expression can help refugee students in expressing trauma and in making sense of their identity and migration experience. This paper presents the case study of a 9-year-old Palestinian refugee boy in Canada and explores how he expressed and made sense of his multiple identities in his drawings. Many features of the boy’s drawings evoked a wounded identity, especially spatial disorganisation and enmeshment. Data analysis revealed that the boy might have been experiencing collective identity trauma and that he used drawing and a peer as props to heal his wounded identity. Both drawing and the space offered by his teacher to safely explore and experiment with different identities contributed to the integration of his multiple identities into a meaningful whole, which contributed to his school adjustment.