"Phoenix as Refuge: A Photographic Exploration of Refugees Within the City" was a creative thesis project that aimed to bridge the gap between divided communities by creating awareness of refugees within the city of Phoenix. Through an IRB approved research study, multiple refugee families were interviewed and photographed. The project documented refugees and their stories and then made those interviews accessible to the greater Phoenix community. The purpose was to make the Phoenix community more aware of refugees in the hopes that this awareness would increase community activism and advocacy for this resilient yet vulnerable minority group. This paper explains the refugee resettlement process and addresses the social and economic implications of refugee resettlement and advocacy within an urban area. Many inhabitants of Phoenix are unaware the refugees that live in their city because of the geographic divide between social classes and ethnic groups. In highly urbanized communities, the geographic layout of the city leads to a more individualistic and segregated society. This notion leads to a discussion of Robert Putnam's theory of social capital, which argued that by improving and fostering social connections, one could increase social well-being and even make the economy more efficient. This paper then applies Putnam's ideas to the interaction between refugees and non-refugees, using space as a determining factor in measuring the social capital of the Phoenix community. As evident in the study of Phoenix's geographic divide between social and economic classes, Phoenix, like many urban cities, is not designed in a way that fosters social capital. Therefore, advocacy must go beyond people and into advocacy for a different kind of city and place that sets up refugees, and non-refugees alike, to succeed. In this way, rethinking the city through urban planning becomes integral to making new social networks possible, building social capital, and increasing social welfare in urban spaces.
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- Phoenix as Refuge: A Photographic Exploration of Refugees Within the City