Title

The Thai-Burma Border: Issues of Forced Migration and the Opportunity to Provide OT Services

Start Time

21-10-2011 10:55 AM

End Time

21-10-2011 11:25 AM

Session Type

Event

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the social networks and lived experiences of Somali Bantu who have been forced to migrate from their homeland to refugee camps in Kenya, and then to the United States. A constructivist grounded theory approach was used with data collected through extensive participant observation over a period of seven years and included interviews with eleven Somali Bantu adults living in an urban area in the Western United States.

The results of this study reveal that Somali Bantu social support systems, so important to their survival in Somalia, have in some ways remained intact but in other ways have been disrupted by constraints imposed by the environment they now live within. As much as the Somali Bantu would like to support each other as they did in the past, physical distances from family members and others in their community, along with a lack of useful resources and transferable skills, have made it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain many of their former occupations and social relationships. Many members of the community, especially women, experience occupational deprivation as they sit at home, caring for their young children, lacking access to female friends and family as well as the broader community.

The Bantu, generally viewed through a deficit model lens as people with cultural deficiencies in their new surroundings, bring with them a wide range of skills, forms of cultural capital, that are hidden to most outside the Bantu community. For example, the traditional occupation of community banking, designed to provide emergency assistance to members of the Somali Bantu community, which has long been supported by the societal expectation of reciprocal obligation, has been maintained but has been modified as a response to contextual circumstances.

The works of Bourdieu, Yosso, Newman, Stack and Putnam provided an effective framework for the analysis of data and development of recommendations that would improve refugee resettlement practice at the local level. The results of this study indicate that specific, historically constituted methods of social support should be facilitated by resettlement agencies so that those with a refugee background can work together in their own communities to address communal issues and develop ways to successfully adjust to their new surroundings.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do the benefits of integrating into local American society differ from the benefits of maintaining ethnic group community support in isolation from the broader community? What role can occupational therapy play in supporting community groups within their new context?
  2. Now that this population has been in the US for seven to eight years, how might research be framed to look at current occupational adjustment?

References

Besteman, C. (1999). Unraveling Somalia: Race, violence and the legacy of slavery. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.

Lehman, D. V., & Eno, O. (2003). The Somali Bantu: Their history and culture. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

McMichael, C., & Manderson, L. (2004). Somali women and well-being: Social networks and social capital among immigrant women in Australia. Human Organization 63(1), 88-99.

Whiteford, G. E. (2004). Occupational issues of refugees. In M. Molineux (Ed.), Occupation for Occupational Therapists. (pp. 183-199). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-91. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1361332052000341006

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Oct 21st, 10:55 AM Oct 21st, 11:25 AM

The Thai-Burma Border: Issues of Forced Migration and the Opportunity to Provide OT Services

The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the social networks and lived experiences of Somali Bantu who have been forced to migrate from their homeland to refugee camps in Kenya, and then to the United States. A constructivist grounded theory approach was used with data collected through extensive participant observation over a period of seven years and included interviews with eleven Somali Bantu adults living in an urban area in the Western United States.

The results of this study reveal that Somali Bantu social support systems, so important to their survival in Somalia, have in some ways remained intact but in other ways have been disrupted by constraints imposed by the environment they now live within. As much as the Somali Bantu would like to support each other as they did in the past, physical distances from family members and others in their community, along with a lack of useful resources and transferable skills, have made it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain many of their former occupations and social relationships. Many members of the community, especially women, experience occupational deprivation as they sit at home, caring for their young children, lacking access to female friends and family as well as the broader community.

The Bantu, generally viewed through a deficit model lens as people with cultural deficiencies in their new surroundings, bring with them a wide range of skills, forms of cultural capital, that are hidden to most outside the Bantu community. For example, the traditional occupation of community banking, designed to provide emergency assistance to members of the Somali Bantu community, which has long been supported by the societal expectation of reciprocal obligation, has been maintained but has been modified as a response to contextual circumstances.

The works of Bourdieu, Yosso, Newman, Stack and Putnam provided an effective framework for the analysis of data and development of recommendations that would improve refugee resettlement practice at the local level. The results of this study indicate that specific, historically constituted methods of social support should be facilitated by resettlement agencies so that those with a refugee background can work together in their own communities to address communal issues and develop ways to successfully adjust to their new surroundings.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do the benefits of integrating into local American society differ from the benefits of maintaining ethnic group community support in isolation from the broader community? What role can occupational therapy play in supporting community groups within their new context?
  2. Now that this population has been in the US for seven to eight years, how might research be framed to look at current occupational adjustment?