A precarious history : war, sanctuary, self, and (un)belonging in America

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Melissa Ann Roberts (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Steve Kroll-Smith

Abstract: In 2015, the number of displaced persons worldwide reached 65.5 million, the highest levels recorded in history; in the years since, that number has only grown. While millions around the world are forcibly displaced, only a minute fraction experience permanent resettlement outside of the country of asylum. In 2015, 69,933 refugees resettled in the United States. Ahmad, an Iraqi national who settled in North Carolina, was one of them. At the heart of this thesis lies a broad question—how might the world, and one’s place within it, be reconceived as result of becoming a refugee, and what negotiations of the self may occur in response? In this thesis, I utilize the life history to explore this question and provide a nuanced, granular view of Ahmad’s experience of refugeehood and resettlement in the United States. Mediated by his past, as well as the unique context of the historical moment of resettlement—in the throes of the 2016 presidential campaign and the subsequent 45th presidential administration—Ahmad’s narrative highlights the tensions between belonging and unbelonging in America, and the negotiations of self that occur in response. Within his post-resettlement story of self, we see how he employs his perceived normalcy, work and self-sufficiency, and legality to differentiate himself from immigrants deemed socially ‘undesirable’ in response to this uncertainty. I suggest that these negotiations of the ‘deserving self’ are, for Ahmad, the effect of a ‘precarious belonging’ within the United States due to his legal-yet-liminal status as a permanent resident. Within his history, we can see the influence of both past and present, as he pursues this new life and claims his ‘place’ in America.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Belonging, Deservingness, Legality, Life history, Refugee, Self
Political refugees $z Iraq $v Case studies
Political refugees $z United States $v Case studies
Emigration and immigration $x Social aspects $v Case studies
Identity (Psychology) $x Social aspects $v Case studies
Assimilation (Sociology) $v Case studies

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