Stigmatized lites

Trajectories of high social mobility are often read as one of class dynamics, without the question of their racial dimension being raised. Shirin Shahrokni's work highlights the central role of racial stigma in the experience of success.

While political discourse polarizes media attention on young people from working-class neighborhoods from postcolonial migrations and continues to question their Good integration into French society, Shirin Shahrokni's work shifts the focus by focusing on young adults of working class and North African descent who have followed the model of success the French (p.viii). If these people have managed to integrate elitist courses (preparatory classes, Sciences Po, engineering schools, business schools, ENSetc.) thus realizing the dream of republican meritocracy, the work undermines the latter by revealing the salience of class, gender and racial boundaries which structure the paths of the individuals concerned.

The author reveals the family dynamics and strategies at the origin of the success trajectories of the surveys and questions the influence of educational institutions according to the degree of selectivity of the classes and establishments attended. She then looks at their dual minority experience within the major schools they attended and during their entry into working life, examining the obstacles encountered as well as the strategies of resistance and professional aspirations that they developed in response.

This work is an innovative meeting point between two literatures which have until now had little dialogue. On the one hand, French work on social mobility and in particular that of immigrant descendants; on the other, English-speaking studies on the racialized middle classes. Its inclusion in an intersectional epistemology underlines the specificity of the experiences of individuals living the double stigma of being from both working-class and racialized backgrounds. Becoming dominated among the dominants, they develop different forms of minority culture of mobility concept developed by Neckerman and his colleagues, which the author appropriates while seeking to think about it in its plurality.

Resources for success: family aspirations and institutional arrangements

following other studies on the educational careers of descendants of immigrants, the text underlines the weight of family resources. The author particularly emphasizes the role of mothers, but also of family moral and emotional capital, which contribute to building a moral imperative of success (p. 32). Initially seen by the parents, it is taken up by the older brothers and sisters, who act as guides and academic coaches for their children, sometimes adding this moral support to financial support. On the other hand, and this is a central contribution of the work, the family dimension of the academic and social success of immigrant children is also found downstream from it. It indeed allows a symbolic requalification of parents who reach, through the intermediary of their children, the social recognition of which they have been deprived until now. The people interviewed give back (give back) their parents, making them benefit (materially and/or symbolically) from their own success. Several examples are given throughout the text: the pride of a mother during the welcoming ceremony of the prestigious school that her son joined; a girl who started her own business and decides to employ her mother in it; children who, with their acquired social position, do not hesitate to help their parents financially. By emphasizing family dynamics, upstream and downstream of the admission of North African immigrant children to elitist institutions, the work takes a step aside from the literature on social mobility, very focused on the theme of betrayal and shame of the latter towards their original environment.

If the author identifies a great similarity in terms of parental discourse and expectations, she shows that the role of institutions is more contrasting and highlights three typical paths. A first third of the people questioned followed what the author suggests calling trajectories protected: they were educated in selective classes in which racialized and working-class students are a tiny minority. For others (around a third of the new surveys), the opportunity to follow a prestigious higher education course presented itself later, at the end of high school, and essentially by chance. via the programs CEP from Sciences Po Paris. In these two types of pathways, the educational institution itself is a resource and reinforces family dynamics and aspirations. This is not the case for the last type of course, marked by certain failures of the educational institution. If these investigations have succeededit is in part because they have not followed the recommendations of their teachers and guidance counselors, in doing so countering what they perceive as injustices in the educational system.

The price of success: Class and racial undermining in elite institutions

In the following chapters, the author questions the cost of entry into elitist courses and studies the multiple forms of symbolic violence, micro-aggressions, humiliations and experiences of ordinary racism suffered by these students and graduates of North African descent. If pitfalls sometimes present themselves as early as secondary studies (See. above), entry into a major school or a preparatory class constitutes a real Culture shock (p. 73) for surveys: they suddenly become aware of the social order and the inequalities that constitute it. Within these institutions mainly attended by white students from privileged backgrounds, investigations are perceived and experienced as outsiders. The author reports their feeling of strangeness and exclusion, their strong impression of marginality and solitude, their difficulty feeling their place and legitimate; and this despite their academic success. Due to the implicit normative expectations of these environments, the interviewees find themselves forced to adapt their gestures and attitudes, to police their way of speaking.

The cost of success does not, however, stop at studies: the author also looks at discrimination and the multiple obstacles that surveys anticipate with regard to their professional career. It underlines the injunction made to them to erase their identifications and attachments to the country of origin of their parents in this environment. This analysis highlights, in the continuity of English-speaking work on the racialized middle classes, that experiences of racialization are strongly intertwined with class hierarchies. It reveals in particular that because of their physical appearances and their surnames, these young adults of North African descent were constantly sent back to the suburb in higher education as well as in employment.

Taking your place in the elite: discourses and strategies of resistance

Finally, this book reports on the different ways in which upwardly mobile descendants of North African origin respond to the cost of mobility, through the analysis of their discourses and strategies of resistance. Some choose to move towards less prestigious courses where they feel more comfortable; others benefit from the help of racialized teachers who have their success at heart. A majority tends to get closer to people sharing the same racial condition and create circles of support where their feelings can be expressed. hidden scripts, that is to say a criticism of the dominant ones. Vectorsempowerment, these make it possible to shoulder and circumvent present and future discrimination. In addition, thanks to the creation of university associations and cultural events within the framework of their schools, they create spaces to express their concerns and promote their cultural affiliations.

Concerning their professional aspirations, three types of discourse and strategies emerge according to educational trajectories and individual representations: those who have experienced academic careers protected demonstrate a certain ideological alignment with meritocratic discourses and color-blindness the French one. They want to succeed in France despite the compromises they will have to make in the sense of a certain conformity to the construction of a public identity aimed at masking their ethno-racial or religious affiliations. Other surveys, which denounce systemic racism within French society and call into question its national imagination, insist on their desire to work for the suburbs and to remain close to young people in the working-class neighborhoods where they grew up in order to be able to do so. benefit from their success. The author thus outlines a heuristic shift towards the literature on experiences of discrimination by highlighting forms of professional aspirations counter-hegemonics which arise from a political struggle for the collective recognition of residents of working-class neighborhoods. Finally, a final group aspires to an international career, navigating between several countries, not only to escape discrimination but also in the name of a cosmopolitan ideal.

Deepening the diversity of pathways: some avenues for reflection

Understanding the articulation of racial and class minorities in the academic and professional trajectories of racialized individuals in upward social mobility, Shirin Shahrokni's work makes a significant contribution to the literature on social mobility and experiences of discrimination. The author recreates the forms of symbolic violence and the strategies of resistance in great detail, thus giving voice and flesh to these processes of inferiorization. On the theoretical level, its ambition to highlight not a but various forms of minority culture of mobility depending on educational trajectories proves to be particularly heuristic, and it seems to us in this regard that several elements would benefit from being explored in greater depth.

Firstly, the text provides few precise elements on the social characteristics of the parents; referred, without distinction, to the working classes. It would have been interesting, for example, to understand how parental capital influences children's educational careers, and we would also have liked to know more about their practice concrete educational measures (private lessons, request for exemption, game on the school map, etc.) and how they can vary from one family to another. Furthermore, if the introduction rightly emphasizes the weight of residential socialization, the analysis of these logics would have benefited from being further developed in the rest of the work. Likewise, the author offers few elements of differentiating stories of undermining according to the types of higher establishments common, suggesting that all elitist academic environments produce the same types of symbolic violence and strategies of resistance. The work nonetheless provides very stimulating avenues of analysis, which it would be interesting to extend by studying the experiences of social mobility of racialized people with other migratory backgrounds or who are further along in their professional careers.