“MidAmerica Meets Mideast”: Arab American Identity Formation in Dearborn Schools, 1980 - 2001
Alexandra Pasqualone

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

History of Education
Schools of the mid-to-late 20th century served as pivotal spaces where Dearborn youth of Arab descent navigated the tumultuous environment of adolescence amid social, personal, and geopolitical debates unfolding between Arab American and non-Arab communities. These debates shaped both perceptions of these youths and how they perceived themselves as Arabs living within America. This project explores the relationship between public schooling and identity formation among youths of Arab descent in Dearborn, Michigan, from 1948 to 2001. This period stretches from the heightened immigration of Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) populations to the Midwest following the establishment of Israel to the rise in Islamophobia after 9/11. Among a highly concentrated community of Arab immigrants, Dearborn’s youth formed diverse understandings of what it meant to be Arab, what it meant to be American of Arab descent, and how to contend with these identities. This intertwined process of identity formation and racial formation was complex as youth of Arab descent simultaneously asserted their own conceptions of their identities and responded to non-Arabs’ often racist and inaccurate perceptions regarding SWANA populations. Grounded in archival sources and oral interviews, this project explores the nuances surrounding the identities of Arab populations in the U.S. and complicates current historical understandings of education and its relationship to race, ethnicity, and what it means to be American.
About Alexandra Pasqualone
Alexandra Pasqualone is a Ph.D. Candidate in Educational Policy Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interests center around the power of student voice and youth activism, the history of adolescent educational experiences, and the relationship between schools and themes of race, equity, and identity. Framed within a global, national, and local setting, Alexandra’s work recounts the experiences of twentieth-century students of color, and the school systems, peer interactions, curricula, and community engagement that influenced their everyday lives. More broadly, her research resides within the intersections of educational history, immigration history, the history of race and whiteness, and Arab American Studies. Her current research considers the universal challenges faced by youth of color in public schools as well as the distinct ways racial and geopolitical particularities have differentiated the experiences of marginalized groups from one another. Most importantly, Alexandra’s research applies studentcentered approaches to historical research to illuminate the importance of youth as historical actors. Prior to pursuing her doctoral studies, Alexandra served as a high school history teacher in New Jersey, a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at Akdeniz University in Turkey, and an AmeriCorps VISTA leading after-school programming in West Philadelphia as part of UPenn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships. She is a proud alumna of Camden County Community College, earned a teaching certificate and B.A in Secondary Education and History from Rowan University, an M.A. in History from the University of Cincinnati, and an M.A. in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

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