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Belonging with the Lost Boys: the mobilization of audiences and volunteers at a refugee community center in Phoenix, Arizona

Description

In 2001, a refugee group of unaccompanied minors known as the Lost Boys of Sudan began arriving in the United States. Their early years were met with extensive media coverage

In 2001, a refugee group of unaccompanied minors known as the Lost Boys of Sudan began arriving in the United States. Their early years were met with extensive media coverage and scores of well-meaning volunteers in scattered resettlement locations across the country. Their story was told in television news reports, documentary films, and published memoirs. Updates regularly appeared in newsprint media. Scholars have criticized public depictions of refugees as frequently de-politicized, devoid of historical context, and often depicting voiceless masses of humanity rather than individuals with skills and histories (Malkki 1996, Harrell-Bond and Voutira 2007). These representations matter because they are both shaped by and shape what is possible in public discourse and everyday relations. This dissertation research creates an intersection where public representation and everyday practices meet. Through participant observation as a volunteer at a refugee community center in Phoenix, Arizona, this research explores the emotions, social roles and relations that underpin community formation, and investigates the narratives, representations, and performances that local Lost Boys and their publics engage in. I take the assertion that "refugee issues are one privileged site for the study of humanitarian interventions through which 'the international community' constitutes itself " (Malkki 1996: 378) and consider formation of local 'communities of feeling' (Riches and Dawson 1996) in order to offer a critique of humanitarianism as mobilized and enacted around the Lost Boys.

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  • 2014

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The motivations and challenges of acquiring U.S. citizenship for South Sudanese refugees in the greater Phoenix area when language is a potential barrier

Description

South Sudanese refugees are among the most vulnerable immigrants to the U.S.. Many have spent years in refugee camps, experienced trauma, lost members of their families and have had minimal

South Sudanese refugees are among the most vulnerable immigrants to the U.S.. Many have spent years in refugee camps, experienced trauma, lost members of their families and have had minimal or no schooling or literacy prior to their arrival in the U.S. Although most South Sudanese aspire to become U.S. citizens, finally giving them a sense of belonging and participation in a land they can call their own, they constitute a group that faces great challenges in terms of their educational adaptation and English-language learning skills that would lead them to success on the U.S. citizenship examination. This dissertation reports findings from a qualitative research project involving case studies of South Sudanese students in a citizenship preparation program at a South Sudanese refugee community center in Phoenix, Arizona. It focuses on the links between the motivations of students seeking citizenship and the barriers they face in gaining it. Though the South Sudanese refugee students aspiring to become U.S. citizens face many of the same challenges as other immigrant groups, there are some factors that in combination make the participants in this study different from other groups. These include: long periods spent in refugee camps, advanced ages, war trauma, absence of intact families, no schooling or severe disruption from schooling, no first language literacy, and hybridized forms of second languages (e.g. Juba Arabic). This study reports on the motivations students have for seeking citizenship and the challenges they face in attaining it from the perspective of teachers working with those students, community leaders of the South Sudanese community, and particularly the students enrolled in the citizenship program.

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  • 2014