Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

People in Between: The Value of Life Stories in Exploring the Needs of Colombian Asylum Seekers
by Valliappan, Poonam R., M.A., University of South Florida, 2011, 100; 1497292
Abstract (Summary)

The long, protracted civil war, spanning nearly fifty years, in the South American nation of Colombia has displaced almost four million civilians in as much time. Tens of thousands of refugees were resettled in Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela and other neighboring countries. Some, still threatened in their country of first asylum, and resettled to the United States (US) with their families, must learn to navigate the often complex systems of life and living in America. Resettlement programs that focus primarily on immediate needs such as employment and accommodations are aware of the growing need for more long–term assistance. However, while there is much research on how to improve refugee resettlement services generally, there is very limited research on the nature of services that might be needed long–or the duration that they may be necessary, for asylum seekers specifically.

This ethnographic research examines in detail the long term needs of two Colombian asylum seekers who resettled with their families to a suburban neighborhood in a city in the southern part of the United States. A series of life history interviews, participant observation, ethnographic immersion and secondary research over the course of a one–internship with an agency servicing survivors of political torture–refugees, asylees and asylum seekers–uncovered opportunities for bridging perceived gaps in service and highlighting ones that are critical to the long-term successful resettlement and transition of asylum seekers. Four dominant themes emerged from the research: (1) New Identities / Roles–understanding new constructions of self and other; (2) Belonging–coping with new identities, building trust and setting up roots; (3) Legitimacy–power, representation of asylum seekers and its effects on access to services; and (4) Aspirations–goals for the future.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bird, Elizabeth
Commitee: Angrosino, Michael V., Romero-Daza, Nancy Y.
School: University of South Florida
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: MAI 50/01M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, Cultural anthropology, Latin American Studies
Keywords: Columbia
Publication Number: 1497292
ISBN: 978-1-124-80093-6
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