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2003 Mellon-MIT Grantees

Dr. Nazli Kibria Boston University -- "Deportees and Returnees: The Social and Economic Reintegration of Labor Migrants from Bangladesh"
Dr. Rosalind Shaw Tufts University -- "Remembering to Forget: Ex-Combatants, Reconciliation Practices, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone"
Stacy Heen Tufts University -- "Preventing Displacement: The Role of Credit and Savings in Conflict Prevention"
Shelby Carpenter Boston University -- "Odelay: A Study of Sierra Leonean Refugee Youth and “Cultural Bereavement"
Sarah Kamal MIT -- "Media Reconstruction in Afghanistan: Observing Information Needs, Capacity, and Delivery in Transition"


Dr. Nazli Kibria 
Boston University, Department of Sociology
June 1 – July 31, 2003
Deportees and Returnees: The Social and Economic Reintegration of Labor Migrants from Bangladesh

NGO Partners: ENDEAVOUR (Ensure Development Activities for Under-privileged Rural People) and WARBE (Welfare Association of Repatriated Bangladeshi Employees) 

International labor migration is marked by flux in the policies and attitudes of receiving countries towards migrants. During periods of economic boom, labor migrants, both legal and illegal, are often welcomed and tolerated. But as economic tides shifts, these same workers may be encouraged or even forced to return to their countries of origin. This project will explore the social and economic reintegration of "returned" Bangladeshi labor migrants, with a focus on the situation of deportees or those forcibly repatriated. I will look at the particular challenges and dilemmas of reintegration faced by deportees, and how they differ from those experienced by other returned migrants. The project will enable me to assess the feasibility of a larger, more extensive study on the situation of deported labor migrants originating from Bangladesh.

Dr. Rosalind Shaw
Tufts University, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
May 27 – July 25, 2003
Remembering to Forget: Ex-Combatants, Reconciliation Practices, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone

NGO Partner: Human Rights Section of the UN's Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL)

When demobilized members of combatant groups return to their home communities or settle in new ones, issues of memory, accountability, healing, and reconciliation at a local level take on particular urgency. In collaboration with the Human Rights Section of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), I will study Sierra Leone’s TRC hearings and their immediate aftermath in two communities to examine how local communities respond to these discursive public memories of violence, and how such a process intersects (and collides) with local processes of reconciliation, healing, and reintegration for ex-combatants. While, in the past, TRC has assumed that violence is healed by verbally discursive remembering, in many Sierra Leonean communities, past violence is healed instead by ritually mediated forgetting.


Stacy Heen
Tufts University, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
June 13 – August 20, 2003
Preventing Displacement: The Role of Credit and Savings in Conflict Prevention

NGO Partner: Caisse Villagoise d'Epargne et Credit (Cameroon)

This research project proposes to explore the likelihood of conflict-induced displacement in a rural region of northwest Cameroon, as well as the possibility of preventing such displacement due to the micro-credit activities of the savings and credit union Caisse Villagoise d’Epargne et Credit (CVEC).

The Noun department, where CVEC is located, faces a number of open and latent conflicts, including those between farmers and cattle raisers, Muslim factions, and political parties as well as conflicts over land tenure and the exploitation of natural resources. The potential for conflict escalation is exacerbated by national-level issues, including extreme government corruption, limited political freedoms under the Paul Biya regime, and the actual or potential cross-border flow of refugees from Nigeria.

This, then, is the environment in which CVEC, the only financial services institution in the area, operates. CVEC grants two types of micro-credit loans through its revolving fund program. The first is for productive projects such as buying agricultural inputs, paying field laborers, transporting produce, paying storage fees, or buying small equipment. The second is for paying school fees for children, which is viewed by the community as an important social investment and a deterrent to illegal activities.

CVEC claims that “the planning and implementing of these loans force people to get together regularly and opens doors for social dialogue. The most difficult conflicts are those where people do not communicate. So a lot of minor and middle level conflicts can be handled this way.” This provocative and interesting claim frames the central question of this research agenda: Can the implementation of micro-credit loans be an effective tool for the prevention of conflict and displacement?

My working hypothesis is that CVEC currently plays a limited conflict prevention role. I intend to explore three strands of this question to document the nature and impact of this role. First, I will explore whether the beneficiaries of CVEC’s revolving fund are parties to the conflicts that put the community at risk of escalation and displacement; second, I will look at whether they actually discuss and resolve their conflicts in the course of utilizing their CVEC loan funds; and third, I will examine the relationship between the resolution of conflicts at this level and the broader potential for conflict escalation and displacement in the area. My research will occur over the next five months, including two months of field work conducting interviews with CVEC clients and a control group population.


Shelby Carpenter
Boston University, Department of Anthropology
May 14 – July 3, 2003
Evaluation of Economic Relief Interventions

NGO Partners: National Council for Arts and Culture, The Gambia and Search for Common Ground, Sierra Leone

This study will examine the ways in which refugee identity and ritual performance are linked to Sierra Leoneans’ chronic adjustment difficulties and profound sense of separation from their own culture, a condition for which Eisenbruch has coined the term “cultural bereavement” (Eisenbruch, 1991, 1992). I propose that Sierra Leonean emulations of Odelay, young men’s masquerade societies based upon the original Yoruba associations from Nigeria, represent an urban ritual response to trauma in the face of low institutional social support. This multi-site study examines young men’s integration and healing processes as part of their refugee experience both in urban Gambia and Freetown. In addition, this research asks what social and economic forces propel and constrain changes in refugees’ public identity and Odelay participation. My research goals are: (1) to gather a detailed sociological survey of Sierra Leonean youth in urban Gambia; (2) to chart levels of Odelay participation among different age-grades, and (3) to record the histories of migration in relationship to kinship and other ties in The Gambia.

Sarah Kamal
MIT, Department of Comparative Media Studies
January 2003
Media Reconstruction in Afghanistan: Observing Information Needs, Capacity, and Delivery in Transition

NGO Partners: Humanitarian Assistance for Women and Children of Afghanistan, Kabul; Institute for Media, Policy, and Civil Society, Kabul; Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Kabul; InterNews, Kabul; InterMedia, UK

This proposal addresses radio reception in rural Afghanistan during its current climate of instability and transition. After five years of the Taliban’s enforced absence of image, voice, music, and video, Afghanistan is regaining its voicing and communication abilities. The shift from silence to highly mediated distraction in Kabul has been one of the most prominent indications of rapid change in the country.

As had been the case under the Taliban, finding and maintaining good access to information is one of the most important coping skills for many Afghans in insecure and rapidly shifting situations. Returning refugee populations face deeply rooted structural problems on returning to their villages: millions of landmines continue to litter the countryside, ethnic tension is high, and looting and raping continues to ravage civilian populations. Due to poor communication infrastructure (roads, telephone, mail, and television is damaged and in some cases non-existent outside of Kabul), villages are often isolated and disconnected from the resources and information that flow into Kabul and other major urban centres. Many villages continue to rely on informal information structures as they did with the Taliban for the majority of their news.

The fall of the Taliban may have relaxed central government regulations on the wearing of the infamous burqa for women in Afghanistan, but lack of security and the restrictions of purdah and traditional attitudes and belief systems continue to restrict women’s mobility, particularly in rural contexts. Radio is often the only connection such women have to the outside world. At the same time, women’s issues have become of particular interest politically and media and development organizations are investing heavily in radio programming for women. Women have an unprecedented public voice in their nation’s history, and are being encouraged to participate in the political processes ­ via consultations on the writing of Afghanistan’s new constitution, election to the Loya Jirga (grand council), and organization through the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

How are rural women reading the information flows reaching them? What role does radio play in shaping their sense of identity, perception of the world, and aspirations? Where is radio positioned relative to husband, relatives, community elders and religious leaders in influencing women’s opinions? These questions are a starting point of inquiry for this proposal, which aims to produce findings that will be of use to the radio and humanitarian organizations supporting radio broadcasts for rural populations in Afghanistan.

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