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2002 Mellon-MIT Grantees

Dr. Rogaia Abusharaf Tufts University -- "Cultural Continuity and Change among War-displaced Southern Women in Northern Sudan"
Neeti Belliappa Tufts University -- "Children of Lahore, Grandchildren of Delhi: Memory's Role in the Formation of Political Loyalties, c. 1900-2000 AD"
Shelby Carpenter Boston University -- "Odelay: Revitalization of Hunting Societies among War-Displaced Sierra Leonean Youth in Urban Gambia"
Charles Cohen
& Eric Werker
Harvard University -- "Evaluation of Economic Relief Interventions"
Kathy Diaz MIT -- "The Integration of Burmese Youth as Monks through the Temples of Bangkok: How has the Vow of Purity Functioned as a Coping Strategy by Young Asylum-seekers"
Rachel Gisselquist MIT -- "Local Integration in Protracted Refugee Situations: The Case of Liberians in Côte d'Ivoire" 
Dr. Karen Jacobsen, Prof. Peggy Levitt, and Sarah Wagner

Tufts, Wellesley, Harvard -- "Perspectives on Transnational Membership: The Political Activities of Congolese and Burundian Refugees in Camps and Urban Areas"
Jennifer Mack MIT -- "Ice Skating and Island Hopping: Refugees, Integration, and Access in a Segregated City" 
Martin Masumbuko and Kiganzi Nyakato Tufts -- "Resettlement of the Sudanese 'Lost Boys' from Kakuma Refugee Camp in 17 States of the USA"
Scott Radnitz MIT -- " The Political Factors Contributing to In-and Out-Migration in Uzbekistan"


Dr. Rogaia Abusharaf 
Feinstein Famine Center, School of Nutrition,Tufts University
June to September 2002
Cultural Continuity and Change among War-displaced Southern Women in Northern Sudan

NGO Partner: Mutawinat Group (Sudan) 

This study seeks to examine patterns and processes of socio-cultural continuity and change among war-displaced Southern women in Northern Sudan. While my earlier research concentrated on the experiences of displaced women in two shanty-towns, this ethnography will include two major camps for the internally-displaced persons in Sudan: Jabal Awlia and Karton Kassla. The distinction between shanty-towns and displaced camps lies in the fact that the former underwent land allocation, a process that shifted peoples' views about themselves from nazihin or displaced people, to permanent residents and home owners. My basic hypothesis is that greater levels of inter-ethnic mixing and cultural borrowing take place in shanty-towns rather than camps, which enjoy less ethnic diversity. Incorporating these camps in my research is critical for comparing and contrasting the effects of residential patterns, ethnic mixing, and length of residence on the cultural life of displaced people in Northern Sudan. The experiences of Southern Sudanese women in shanty-towns and displaced camps will deepen our understanding of the overall cultural responses in times of violence, suffering, and human dislocation.

Neeti Belliappa
Department of History,Tufts University
Period of Study: September 2002 to May 2003
Children of Lahore, Grandchildren of Delhi: Memory's Role in the Formation of Political Loyalties, c. 1900-2000 AD

NGO Partner: National College of Arts (Lahore) and Kali for Women (Delhi)

The construction of a national identity among refugees who crossed over during the Partition of India will be this project's core concern. I am interested in the role of memory in the development and transmission of loyalty toward a nation-in-the-making. I will approach this question using a variety of sources - doing both archival research and fieldwork in the academic year 2002-03.

I propose to do at least sixty interviews of Punjabi Hindus who were forcibly moved from Lahore (in present day Pakistan) to Delhi during the Partition of the subcontinent in 1947. These interviews will probe the meaning of the individual's relationship to the state on matters pertaining to health, housing, education, and political behavior. How were refugee concerns dealt with by the forces of the state and how did this develop their relationship to their new state? The interviewees will be men and women chosen from a wide spectrum of social classes and localities. To probe the meaning of nationalism across generations, I will also interview the next generation of Punjabi Hindus who made Delhi their home.

I will undertake archival research and do interviews with Lahori Muslims in Lahore to get a sense of the shared the life-worlds inhabited by these Lahoris. I hope to take photographs of the urban landscape Lahori Hindus left behind in 1947. The lanes, neighborhoods, temples, hospitals, schools remain, in many cases, named as they were- only the inhabitants have changed. Other source materials that I will examine include letters, memoirs and accounts from newspapers.

Partition continues to be evoked in the nationalist discourse of both India and Pakistan in everyday news 55 years after the event. Yet the meaning of the event, especially for those who were forced to move, has not been analysed. This study hopes to fill in some of the silences in the discourse. My 'NGO' partners will be the Graduate Program in Communication and Cultural Studies at the National College of Arts in Lahore while doing fieldwork and archival research in Lahore for three months. While in Delhi doing fieldwork and research for eight months, I will be affiliated with Kali for Women, a feminist publishing house. Some of the key members of Kali for Women have researched the impact of Partition violence and dislocation on women. I hope to learn from their experiences in fieldwork and their perspectives on oral research methodology.


Shelby Carpenter
Department of Anthropology, Boston University
June to September 2002
Odelay: Revitalization of Hunting Societies among War-Displaced Sierra Leonean Youth in Urban Gambia

NGO Partner: UNHCR; Search for Common Ground (Liberia); National Council for the Arts and Culture (Gambia)

This multi-site research proposes that emulations of traditional Nigerian Yoruba young men's hunting societies, called Odelay, represent the creation of a Sierra Leonean urban ritual response to trauma in the face of low institutional social support.1 My study focuses on how identity and ritual performance are linked to Sierra Leoneans' chronic adjustment difficulties and profound sense of separation from their own culture, a condition to which Eisenbruch has coined the term "cultural bereavement" (Eisenbruch, 1991, 1992). I argue that the urban cultural heritage of Odelay societies' therapeutic characteristics make them an ideal locus for examining the wider social, political and psychological context of the Sierra Leonean refugee case.

Pre-dissertation summer research will be conducted during four weeks in the cities of Serekunda and Bakau, The Gambia and two weeks in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Collaborating NGOs include the National Council for the Arts and Culture (NCAC) in Banjul and the Search for Common Ground (SCG) in Freetown

Charles Cohen and Eric Werker
Department of Economics, Harvard University
June to September 2002
Evaluation of Economic Relief Interventions

NGO Partner: Refugee Law Project, Makere University, Kampala; Refugee Consortium of Kenya, Nairobi

Our research is on optimizing the delivery of relief to displaced persons (or those at risk of displacement) in complex humanitarian emergencies. In order to narrow the scope of the research question, we focus on two important debates in recent humanitarian literature and practice. One is the question of "capacity building," i.e., the extent to which one should use existing local institutions in the delivery of relief. When local institutions (e.g., indigenous political structures) are used, two positive benefits result: recipients are empowered to construct productive solutions to their own problems, and aid can be more easily targeted into the most effective channels. These benefits must be weighed against the potential for the aid to excessively strengthen the local institutions which, depending on the situation, could further conflict; moreover, the aid may be used to an end which differs from the desires of the donors. The second debate concerns the impact of aid on the political economy of conflict situations. Here we will focus on the trade-off between centralized and decentralized aid delivery. The more decentralized the delivery, the easier it is for aid givers to fine-tune interventions to the local population (and hence to minimize mortality). However, it is argued that the decentralization of aid delivery allows warring parties to more easily manage aid flows to their advantage (e.g., by extracting payoffs from local authorities), hence potentially exacerbating crisis situations.

To this debate we hope to contribute a framework that lays out the costs and benefits of capacity building and decentralization, thereby helping organizations to optimize their relief efforts to specific situations. In economic terms, this will likely take the form of a mechanism design problem under asymmetric information. In our fieldwork we will be looking to learn about the specific costs and benefits of the trade-offs. Additionally, we will try to understand where interests may diverge along the chain of relief delivery, and how this problem varies across types of aid. Of particular interest will be how organizations currently adjust their practices to respond to these problems. Implications for this research may include recommendations for context-specific organizational design, types of relief aid, and regional coordinating strategies.

Kathy Diaz
Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT
June to September 2002
The Integration of Burmese Youth as Monks through the Temples of Bangkok: How has the Vow of Purity Functioned as a Coping Strategy by Young Asylum-seekers

NGO Partner: International Rescue Committee (Thailand)

Much of the theoretical framework on the coping strategies of refugees focuses on the methods used by refugees to circumvent obstacles and formal barriers within the dominant society. The argument is that in many cases these measures are taken as a result of strategic decisions. Coping strategies can maximize access to basic necessities and opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable. The proposed research for this grant will explore the question of whether young Burmese asylum-seekers in Bangkok have integrated into the urban temples as a possible coping strategy. Over the last decade, Burmese nationals have fled to Thailand because of human rights violations perpetrated by a military government that has blocked democratic elections since 1990. Overall public sentiment in Thailand has hardened toward Burmese refugees after Burmese pro-democracy student groups orchestrated two separate Bangkok hostage standoffs in 1999 and 2000. Subsequently, the Thai government has adopted a particularly strict stance toward Burmese refugees, especially for those in Bangkok.
If some urban refugees have managed to avoid repatriation, what are the coping strategies that have enabled them to blend into the urban fabric of Bangkok? The goal of this proposed research is to probe some of the established observations about coping strategies, and to gain insights from the experience of young Burmese asylum-seekers who have found shelter as monks in Bangkok's temple system.


Rachel Gisselquist
Department of Political Science, MIT
Period of Study: June to July 2002
Local Integration in Protracted Refugee Situations: The Case of Liberians in Côte d'Ivoire

NGO Partner: UNHCR (Geneva and Côte d'Ivoire)

A significant problem for refugees in many first asylum countries is that repatriation to their countries of origin is unlikely or inadvisable. One solution promoted by UNHCR is local integration. However, in recent years, there has been little research on this solution. The purpose of this project is to contribute to that research through a case study on Liberian refugees in Côte d'Ivoire. The project will focus on identifying factors in the host country that might inhibit or support local integration and on evaluating the strategies pursued by the UNHCR in Côte d'Ivoire thus far. This project will ask: (1) What are the effects of regime change, economic stagnation, and rising ethnic tensions in Côte d'Ivoire on the process of local integration? (2) Do these variables affect refugee populations from other countries differently? How do these variables interact with the particular characteristics of the Liberian refugee population?
There are two partner organizations for this project: UNHCR's Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit (EPAU) in Geneva and the UNHCR office in Côte d'Ivoire. Initially, this project was designed to focus on the effect of ethnic tensions and the related debate over "Ivoirité" on possibilities for local integration for Liberian refugees. However, UNHCR-Côte d'Ivoire has advised that it will not partner on a project on this topic because it is too politically sensitive at the moment. Thus, I will be reformulating the project along the lines described above.


Dr. Karen Jacobsen, Prof. Peggy Levitt, and Sarah Wagner
Feinstein Center, Tufts University; Department of Sociology, Wellesley College; Harvard
Period of Study: June to September 2002
Perspectives on Transnational Membership: The Political Activities of Congolese and Burundian Refugees in Camps and Urban Areas

NGO Partner: Jesuit Relief Services

This is a proposal for a planning grant to explore a relatively new and understudied area of migration: the transnational political activities of refugees. We plan to focus on two sites of refugee political activity-camps and urban areas-and to begin to "map" the kinds of activities that refugees engage in, chart how they get the information they use, examine the nature of their political goals and strategies, and track how these change over time. Our guiding hypotheses, at this exploratory stage, are that refugee political activities will be related to (1) their relationships with international and local NGOs; and (2) refugees' linkages with the diaspora in third countries. We anticipate that refugees with strong links to the diaspora or to NGOs, particularly groups which actively promote human rights and social justice concerns, will be more sophisticated in their political discourse, more aware of global rights regimes, more adept at accessing information via technology such as the Internet, and more actively involved in seeking political change in their homelands. We also believe that these refugees will be more likely to see themselves as acting within a transnational political field and using discourses and strategies from local, national, and international sources. We will explore these issues by conducting interviews with refugees and NGOs in Goma, DRC and Johannesburg, South Africa. This planning grant will help us develop a typology of political activities, more refined hypotheses, and an improved methodology for investigating these kinds of issues.
Jennifer Mack
School of Architecture and Planning, MIT
August to December 2002
Ice Skating and Island Hopping: Refugees, Integration, and Access in a Segregated City

NGO Partner: Swedish Red Cross

What are the boundaries for a newly arrived refugee's cognitive map of the city? Do government and NGO integration programs actually redraw it? This research seeks to answer these questions by examining the case of Stockholm, Sweden, where the local government both organizes and outsources programs to assist refugees in their transition into Swedish society. These programs seek to overcome many of the problems inherent in the process of assimilation, and they implicitly address the extreme spatial segregation found in Stockholm between "Swedish" residential areas and those populated by immigrants.

While government authorities and their NGO partners usually measure the success of integration programs in terms of economic independence, my study will examine the effects that they have on individual perceptions of the urban environment. I will use a variety of qualitative methods to study two programs: one run by a suburban government entity, and the other run by the Swedish Red Cross. By interviewing authorities and program organizers, politicians, teachers, private participants, and refugees involved in the programs, I will seek to understand the program goals and how they are received and perceived. Participation in the programs will clarify their means of operating. Finally, following methods used by the urbanist Kevin Lynch, refugee participants will be asked to create their own sketch maps of the city at the beginning and end of the study period. This approach will provide some insight into personal experiences of Stockholm, revisiting the issues with methods that complement the purely quantitative ones currently being used.

Martin Masumbuko and Kiganzi Nyakato
Feinstein Center, Tufts University
Resettlement of the Sudanese 'Lost Boys' from Kakuma Refugee Camp in 17 States of the USA

NGO Partner: International Rescue committee (IRC) Boston regional office

The research proposal investigates the resettlement and reintegration issues facing the Sudanese refugees or as they are commonly referred to the "Lost Boys" in Boston. This study will examine the adequacy of their orientation on arrival in Boston and integration since the training and debriefing methods given to the institutions and individuals that received them. The study also will preserve an oral history of this immigration experience of the Sudanese "Lost Boys" who have had the biggest media coverage in the history of refugee resettlement in the USA.

There are no other refugee groups who have undergone similar circumstances as these refugees and therefore this research will contribute greatly to refugee international migration as a baseline study for this unique group. We acknowledge that this study is limited in that it does not provide a comparison with the life that the resettled Sudanese led while in Kakuma Camp. However, this can be effectively achieved if the research team broadens the evaluation to education and psychosocial refugee programs at the camp level where the boys spent 9 years as refugees, before coming to the US. It would be useful to investigate the parallel resettlement of their fellow "Lost Boys" in others states so as to ascertain what common elements exist in order to facilitate their quick integration into the US life and society. For example, the Sudanese Lost Boys at Grand Rapids, Michigan have formed an educational fund with the help of the community and resettlement agencies that is going to provide scholarships for their college education.

This process failed to address the plight of the "Lost girls" despite the fact that they too were among the survivors who found their way to Lokichoggio UNHCR Transit Center. They face even worse risks because traditional cultural processes have been distorted by the conflict in south Sudan, poverty, and the desperate situation in Kakuma Camp. The girls have suffered (and still suffer) from forced early marriages, sexual assault, enslavement, and lack of access to adequate health services, education, psychosocial support and no relative/family support. They are entirely at the mercy of the community, who see them as commodities for sale (usually by credit).

The study is divided into two major sectors. The first deals with the institutions and people who were involved in the resettlement process in the United States. The second deals with the opinions, ideas, and concerns of the Lost Boys themselves, especially their unique experiences and expectations on arrival in the US. Both are necessary to get an integrated view of the resettlement process. UNHCR, US State Department, the media, resettlement agencies, donors and volunteer groups and individuals have told the Lost Boys' story over and over again at different levels. Our research methodology of recording and transcribing the tapes gives the Sudanese young adults a forum to talk about their resettlement process and flight from Sudan to Ethiopia, back to Sudan-down to Kenya-Kakuma refugee camp and then resettlement to the US.

Some of the questions we would like to answer are;
Why are they called the Lost Boys and what do they think of this title?
Why it took too long (9 years) for UNHCR to act on the best interest of these children? Did they have an option?
How did the camp life affect their well being before resettlement in the US?
How were they identified?
What has happened since the cameras moved away?
Description of the resettlement process, issues, problems, opportunities
Did they feel like they had a choice?
Were they a part of the planning process?
What other options did they have at the time?
What type of future are they looking forward to in US society?
Do they feel like they will easily assimilate into US society? Are there sufficient employment opportunities and can they earn a decent living?
What work do the majority of the boys find? Do they want to return home now or in the future and why?
Was the education that UNHCR provided in the camp relevant and useful to them?
Did it help them secure gainful employment or admission to a college or institute of higher learning in the US?
Was the standard of English taught in the camps appropriate for them to get along in the US? For example, in case of court hearings.
Was the group prepared for reintegration socially, mentally?
How prepared were the foster parents?
Was the host community in Boston ready to receive them?
What is the resettlement agencies interpretation of the Conventions of the Rights of the Child?
How did the media coverage before and after resettlement affect them?
Who decided where the resettled refugees should live and why?
How have they survived financially?
Have they experience culture shock and did they develop coping mechanisms?

The second part of the study will look at the role, strategies, and methods of the relocating agencies, institutions and families. These include resettlement agencies, churches, foster families and individuals. One or two resettlement agencies will be chosen based on their different integration roles, namely housing, education, employment opportunities, medical and social care. Interviews will be conducted with key staff directly involved with each of the 20 boys selected. For example, the study will focus on the IRC, INS, UNHCR, the Roca Community Center, and foster families.

This part of the study will be conducted first by a review of all that has been written on the Lost Boys. There will also be an analysis of all agency reports and memos on the Lost Boys. The US State Department, UNHCR, IOM regional headquarters, and IRC headquarters records will be consulted concerning the resettled Sudanese. Where possible the case officers directly involved will be interviewed. 

Scott Radnitz
June to September 2002
The Political Factors Contributing to In-and Out-Migration in Uzbekistan

NGO Partner: UNHCR

My research is on the strategies Uzbekistan's government and citizens have pursued in encouraging the migration of ethnic minorities after independence. First, I will gather data to determine as accurately as possible the annual and total number of Uzbek immigrants into Uzbekistan, and the number of emigrants of different nationalities from Uzbekistan, from 1991 up to the present day. Second, by interviewing government officials, representatives of NGO's, and non-ethnic Uzbeks remaining in the country
(who still comprise about 20% of the population), I will identify and analyze the pressures put upon non-Uzbeks to emigrate, in the form of threats and incentives, or in some circumstances, encouragement to remain. Third, I will interview ethnic Uzbeks who left their countries of residence after 1991 and were given Uzbekistani citizenship, in order to determine whether the government offered them subsidies, assistance in finding employment and housing, or other incentives.
This project will shed light on the actions of state and societal actors in shaping the demography of the nation, an overlooked but very important aspect of nation building. This will contribute to the growing social science literature on the politics of nation building, ethnic identity, and democratization. My research will also be useful to NGO's working in nationalizing states. By being aware of the conscious processes that lead to in- and out-migration, organizations can be better prepared to prevent mass migrations or ease the transitions of the people caught in these processes.

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