The problem with how to approach the integration of refugees is both conceptual and practical. Not only do researchers in the field define "integration" differently, but also those who define and develop policies relating to integration tend to approach the issue in different ways. In current anthropological literature, empirical studies about integration have tended to adopt a "top-down" approach to the concept of integration and, therefore, to focus on structural and organizational aspects of the integration system. There is little research that focuses on the "voice" of refugees and even more of a dearth of research that studies them as active participants in their own integration process.
Integration impacts upon both the refugees and the host community and requires the willingness of both groups to adjust. This does not mean an abandonment of roots and native cultures; rather it is a process of building bridges and reshaping identities to accommodate the transnational realities of the modern world. As a host community, Luckenville is experiencing what other host communities first experienced when a huge influx of refugees suddenly came and ended up as neighbors, community members, and colleagues at work. Government institutions and local community agencies have not been prepared and have experienced many challenges when dealing with service provision to the Mushungulis and other Somali refugees. Lacking an infrastructure that is able to provide cultural and linguistically appropriate services to the new Americans who do not speak English as a first language, the host community of Luckenville has struggled to ensure that the Mushungulis and other Somali refugees have the tools necessary to help them integrate as community members and as citizens.
By understanding tol, xeer, qabils, and Somalinimo, I propose how the Mushungulis and other Somali refugees can draw upon their culture, identity, kinship (tol), the social contract (xeer) between the qabils (commonly translated as "clans") and their "Somaliness" (Somalinimo) to help them cope with the integration process as active agents and social actors as opposed to victims as they are often portrayed. This building of social capital needs to be done not only between qabils in the Somali community but between the Mushungulis and the larger Somali community as well. Together with conducting interviews with a cross-section of service providers and members of the host community of Luckenville and the Twin Cities, my research demonstrates how host communities can perceive and participate in the integration process by redefining new meanings of community and building intra-ethnic communal social capital.
By building on previous research, this dissertation adds to the anthropological literature and addresses gaps in theory and practice that have not viewed refugees as agents in their own resettlement process and which have rarely paid attention to the impact of refugee resettlement upon members of host communities. It also proposes new recommendations that can help the integration and resettlement process so that refugees and host communities can build mutual understanding and create trust upon which full acceptance and belonging in the community depend on.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2010.Major: Anthropology. Advisor: David M. Lipset. 1 computer file (PDF) xii, 292 pages.
Tol, Xeer, and Somalinimo: recognizing Somali and Mushunguli refugees as agents in the integration process..
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