Title page for ETD etd-04122011-232312

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Boutwell, Laura R.
Author's Email Address boutwell@vt.edu
URN etd-04122011-232312
Title "This, What We Go Through. People Should Know:" Refugee Girls Constructing Identity
Degree PhD
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Powell, Katrina M. Committee Co-Chair
Smith, Barbara Ellen Committee Co-Chair
Brandt, Carol Committee Member
Kiecolt, K. Jill Committee Member
Kim, Minjeong Committee Member
  • Service-Learning
  • Women's Studies
  • Girls’ Studies
  • Qualitative Research
  • Identity
  • Mutual Learning
  • Refugee Youth
  • Arts-Based Inquiry
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Belonging
  • Othering
  • Youth Development
  • Citizenship
Date of Defense 2011-03-30
Availability unrestricted
This study examines ways in which African and Afro-Caribbean refugee girls and young women negotiate and perform identity in varied social contexts. Designed as youth-centered participatory action research, the study draws from three years of engagement with a group of refugee girls, ages 11-23, from Somalia, Liberia, Haiti, Burundi, and Sudan. The research occurred in the broader context of The Imani Nailah Project, a program I initiated for refugee middle and high school girls in May 2008. Through in-depth interviews, youth-led focus groups, and arts-based research, Imani researchers (study participants) and I explored experiences and expressions of gender, race/ethnicity, nationality, age, religion and citizenship status, as well as the intersections among these multiply-located identities. This study spans a wide range of identity negotiations and performances, from micro-level interactions to macro-level impacts of dominant culture.

Three interrelated chapters focus on programmatic, methodological, and theoretical components of the dissertation research: (a) how refugee girls and university volunteers pursue mutual learning within a service context; (b) how girl-centered participatory action research can serve as a vehicle towards relational activism, and (c) how broader discourses of othering shape the salience of refugee and citizen identities in the lives of refugee girls. Combined, these articles expand our understanding of how refugee girls narrate self as they participate in and contribute to multiple social worlds.

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