Finding Husbands, Finding Wives: How Being Literate Creates Crisis
Literacy and immigration scholars have not considered how refugees and immigrants negotiate the subtle and important connections between marriage, literacy, and migration to the United States. This chapter attempts to move these understudied connections to the forefront and does so by examining the ways in which young Iraqi and Yemeni immigrant and refugee women and men strive to become literate and simultaneously search for husbands and wives. Investigating these social connections involved in finding the appropriate spouse inevitably brings researchers to the field of education, as those young immigrants considered find themselves in a crisis that brings educational, economic, political, and religious factors into play. And, in order to understand these interconnections we have to take seriously the issue of how transnationalism, the phenomenon of living locally with global connections, demonstrates both the local and global tensions of refugees and immigrants as they interact in shared cultural sites. Moreover, transnational literacy, as described in this chapter, is evoked as a means to sort through particular literacy practices that simultaneously foster status and knowledge and explain the youths’ sense of powerlessness and desperation as well as their perceptions of their success. The tension, between literacy as success and literacy as threat to marriage fosters crises of “glocal” proportions (see Robertson 1995; Sarroub, 2008). Measures taken by the young people to combat their own desperation by mobilizing literacy practices in the milieu of unfamiliar and often alien(ating) American cultural norms are the features that best express how glocalism can be understood.