School Choice and the Children of Migrants: Unveiling Everyday Migrantophobia in Moscow

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Felicie Kempf


While many surveys point to widespread xenophobic, “migrantophobic” attitudes among the Russian population, very few studies have so far investigated the ways these attitudes may inform everyday practices and interactions between immigrants and the majority population. This article explores this topic by studying school choice practices in Moscow in the 2010s. Using qualitative methods (a series of semistructured interviews conducted with 32 Muscovite parents in 2015 and 2018), I show the ways in which ethnic and national characteristics of pupils are mobilized by parents when selecting a school. Moscow’s highly stratified educational system led to an unequal distribution of children of migrants from the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus among schools, to the point where some schools came to be known as “migrant schools.” In this context, I analyze the strategies used by some parents in order to enroll their child into a school without children of migrants. I then reveal the underlying beliefs and stereotypes commonly associated with children of migrants. Finally, I explain why parents can use the presence of migrants’ children as a choice indicator even in the absence of any clearly expressed migrantophobic attitudes. I show how, in a complex and rapidly transforming educational system, the relative presence or absence of non-Russian children came to be interpreted by many Muscovites as a reliable indicator of a given school’s quality.

Article in English

DOI: 10.25285/2078-1938-2020-12-1-127-151


School Choice, Parental Choice, Children of Migrants, Migrants, Migrantophobia, School Segregation, Racism, Russia, Moscow

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