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Unpacking 'Third Culture Kids': the Transnational Lives of Young People at an International School in Postcolonial Indonesia
There is an increasing number of young people who experience high levels of international mobility while they are growing up. They are popularly referred to as ‘Third Culture Kids (TCKs)’ or ‘global nomads’. I conducted a yearlong ethnographic fieldwork at an international high school in Jakarta, Indonesia that catered to the children of foreign expatriate and elite Indonesian families, many of whom had followed their parents on (multiple) temporary sojourns outside their passport countries. I used methodological cosmopolitanism and postcolonial critique to contextualize the way young people experience international mobility and the transnational social space of an international school in a capitalist, postcolonial world. The data show that the school’s ideology of being ‘international’ is a vehicle through which both national and transnational class structures are reproduced. Cosmopolitan practices of peaceably engaging with the Other are thus diverse, situational, and embedded within socio-cultural inequalities.
Issues of transnational identities are becoming increasingly important with the advent of global mobility. This research provides a fuller understanding on how to manage multicultural settings, particularly in the field of education.