Politics and Social Change Workshop/Transnational Studies Initiative Joint presentation by Fethi Keles & Brianna Castro, Harvard University.
Fethi Keles, Postdoctoral Fellow in Global Social Protection, Transnational Studies Initiative, Harvard University.
"Refuge's Resource Environments: A Research Outline"
Over the past several years, the United States has resettled approximately 70,000 refugees annually in communities throughout the country. With the arrival of the 10,000th Syrian refugee in the last week of August 2016 as part of a year-long program, the U.S. will continue to maintain its role as a leading permanent resettlement country in the world. To contribute to the scholarly and practitioner conversations on refugees in the United States, this proposed research will pursue two interconnected questions. The first will inquire into how these refugee immigrants, who usually bring less-than-sufficient material and cultural capital when they arrive in receiving communities across the U.S., cope with the institutional arrangements, cultural expectations, as well as subsistence challenges they face especially in urban areas. In particular, given the traditionally limited amount of cash and other forms of support available for them upon arrival, how do refugees access tangible and intangible rights and protections beyond what a host government provides? The second question will probe into the types of challenges before the provision of the same assistance package for refugee immigrants who may differ substantially in terms of language, educational background, labor market experience, cultural background, religious orientation, and other dimensions of identity. How can these challenges be overcome in ways that recognize the dignity and skills of refugee newcomers?
Brianna Castro, Doctoral Student in Sociology, Harvard
“Whether to Weather: A Case Study of Drought Displacement in the Colombian Countryside”
As drought increases in severity and frequency in many parts of the world due to climate change, this research asks how farming families in rural Colombia make migration decisions during drought, a slow onset, protracted environmental crisis. This research demonstrates that most families migrated after exhausting all of their resources resisting migration. No matter their level of poverty and contrary to what the literature on environmental migration would predict, families did not migrate right away. Drawing on 70 in-depth interviews and 5 focus groups with farming families complemented with interviews with government agencies and advocacy organizations, I argue that the political geography of the region including prior civil conflict displacement, unsettled land tenure disputes, and active land battles shaped families’ responses to environmental disaster. These findings nuance our understanding of how families make migration decisions during environmental crisis by showing that political geography, rather than poverty, was the constraining factor in families’ migratory decisions.