They bring their memories with them: Somali Bantu resettlement in a globalized world
The Somali Bantu, arriving in the United States after many years in Kenyan refugee camps, face significant barriers to successful integration into American society. Those responsible for managing initial resettlement at the local level were not prepared to provide appropriate assistance to this group. The arrival of the Somali Bantu highlighted gaps in services and the need to significantly improve resettlement practice. The purpose of this study was to delve deep into the complexities of the resettlement process by investigating the intersection of institutionalized resettlement practice with the personal lived experience of recently arrived refugees. The theoretical perspectives of economic globalization, social capital, and history in person framed this investigation. A constructivist grounded theory approach was used with data collected through extensive participant observation in addition to interviews with 11 Somali Bantu adults and 11 employees of the resettlement system. During the process, the significance of historically entrenched adversarial relationships with the native Somali community emerged that highlighted the relevance of a history in person framework. The results of this study reveal that Somali Bantu social support systems, so important to their survival in Somalia, have in some ways remained intact but in other ways have been disrupted by constraints imposed by the environment they now live within. The combination of a lack of human capital in a Western environment, a history of oppression, and skills acquired in refugee camps to secure sufficient food and other supplies has resulted in mistrust of agency staff and in behaviors of resistance that are both creative and potentially disruptive to those employed to work with them. This study also revealed that neoliberal economic policies, prioritizing efficiency and accountability, increase competition between agencies, decrease collaboration, and ultimately decrease efficiency of services. Neoliberal policies are in direct conflict with humanitarian agendas and the intent to foster self-sufficiency. Resettlement organizations, both globally and locally, are dispensing their services in a standardized, top-down manner that limits the ability of the system to effectively address the unique needs of a particular group or take advantage of the strengths and assets newcomers to America bring with them.
University of Utah
Smith, Y. J. (2010). They bring their memories with them: Somali Bantu resettlement in a globalized world. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, 1-170.