Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Refugee odysseys: An ethnography of refugee resettlement in the U.S. after 9-11
by Brogden, Mette, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2016, 405; 10013600
Abstract (Summary)

By now scholars, practitioners, government officials and others in the global community have witnessed a number of countries and their populations going through extreme destruction and trying to rebuild in the aftermath. Country case studies are invaluable for their in-depth, continuous look at how a nation-state collective and the individuals who make up that collective recover, regroup, develop, but also remain very harmed for a long time. They must live among and beside their former enemies.

Studies of the resettlement of refugees in a third country offer a different view: there are varied populations arriving with different socio-cultural and economic histories and experiences, and different definitions of a normalcy to which they aspire. They are in a setting that is much different than what characterized their pre-war experiences, and they do not have to rebuild out of ashes in the place that they were born.

Refugees from various countries resettling in a third country have so much in common with each other from the experience of extreme violence and having to resettle in a foreign land that one key informant suggested that we think about a “refugee ethnicity.” Though they would not have wished for them, they have gained numerous new identification possibilities not available to those in the country of origin: U.S. citizen, hybrid, diaspora, cosmopolitan global citizen; refugee/former refugee survivors.

But the “fit” of these identities vary, because the receiving society may perceive individuals and families along a continuum of belonging vs. “othering.” In the post-9-11 era in the U.S., the “belonging” as a citizen and member of the imagined community of the nation that a refugee or former refugee is able to achieve may be precarious. Will refugees resettling turn out to be vectors of socio-political disease, infecting the new host? Or will they be vectors of development and agents of host revitalization as they realize adversity-activated development in a new environment?

The U.S. “host environment” has changed considerably since the modern era of resettlement began in the 1970s and then passed through the dramatic incidents of 9-11. The “hosts” have now also undergone an experience of extreme political violence. U.S. institutions are responding to the events and subsequent wars, and have themselves been changed as they adjust practices and policies in response to the trauma experienced by the people they are meant to serve.

Much is in play. The times beg for a better understanding of refugees’ social experiences of resettlement in a new country, the forms of suffering and marginalization they face, and the healing processes in which they engage. We need a far better understanding of what it takes to assist refugees as they work to re-constitute social networks, recover economically, find opportunity and meaning, pursue goals, and—with receiving communities--express solidarity across social dividing lines.

This dissertation calls out this problematic; and analyzes it at the multi-stakeholder site of refugee resettlement.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Nichter, Mark
Commitee: Baro, Mamadou, Deubel, Tara, Nichter, Mimi
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 77/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Social research
Keywords: Ethnography, Refugee integration, Refugee resettlement, U.S. after 9-11, U.S. refugee resettlement
Publication Number: 10013600
ISBN: 978-1-339-48140-1
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