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Investigating the Local: Place-making, Belonging, and Inclusion in Clarkston, Georgia

Authors: Sarah Ryniker*, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism, Qualitative Methods, Cultural Geography
Keywords: qualitative, refugee, immigrant, place, experience
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

For the past twenty years, Georgia’s “Ellis Island of the South,” has settled refugees from
around the globe. In just 1.4 square miles, the city of Clarkston, Georgia, has become a new refugee
gateway, and a metaphorical island--the inclusive policies within Clarkston do not mirror the current
state and national immigration policies. However, even within Clarkston, there are contestations of
policy and place, stemming from legacies of racism and class conflicts. Centering on the local, this paper,
a proposed section of my dissertation, examines placemaking by three different groups of actors in
Clarkston: refugees, civic and community leaders, and host society members. Using qualitative methods,
specifically discourse analysis, this paper examines negotiations between people and deconstructs place
frames involved in the place-making process. Preliminary research identifies specific places in Clarkston
highlighted by community members which encourage inclusivity and embody diversity, such as the local
coffee shop and the community garden. In addition, it explores the representation of refugees and
immigrants in local politics. Drawing attention to place and the importance of the local experience
illustrates the complicated, and sometimes messy, ways belonging and inclusion are negotiated in
different spaces.
Shaer, M. (2017). Ellis Island South: Welcome to the most diverse square mile in America.
Atlanta Magazine. Retrieved from

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