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Resettled but Displaced: Refugee Incorporation in San Diego, California and Boise, Idaho

  • Author(s): Fee, Margaret
  • Advisor(s): Waldinger, Roger
  • et al.

Resettlement is considered one of three durable solutions for refugees and provides an alternative to protracted displacement when repatriation and local integration are impossible or unlikely. Rather than framing resettlement as a solution that marks the end of a refugee's displacement, I demonstrate that the displacement of forced migration extends through the initial resettlement phase. This dissertation offers a paradigm shift in how we think about the early stages of a refugee's resettlement. I show how humanitarian programs are not purely benevolent and can create new conditions of uncertainty, dislocation, and vulnerability. In reality, resettlement marks another uprooting and readjustment for refugees who may have already rebuilt their lives numerous times following internal migrations or relocations to camps and urban areas. Based on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork consisting of over 1,000 hours of participant observation at a refugee resettlement agency in San Diego, CA and Boise, ID and 102 interviews with refugees and service providers, I reconceptualize early resettlement as a time of disorientation and dislocation rather than one of settlement and integration.

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