Contesting the Generic Refugee: SIV Identity, Community, and Agency During Resettlement

Authors: Ben Sylvester*,
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: Refugee, Identity, Community
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 1, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper examines the complexity of identity and community formation by Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders during resettlement in Columbia, South Carolina. It explores the ways in which identities coalesce around various themes, such as religion, gender, and military service, how these identities serve to create, expand, and claim membership in communities, and how SIVs exercise agency throughout these processes. Through semi-structured interviews with 9 SIVs in Columbia, SC, this qualitative study highlights the unique, highly individualized ways in which a select group of refugees experience resettlement, how they negotiate their placement within socio-economic hierarchies, and exercise agency to obtain access to employment, housing, vehicles, and information. This contests the form of the ‘generic’ refugee, adds to existing literatures that address the complexity of refugee resettlement, and suggests the need for a reorientation of resettlement policies.

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