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Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication
Traci Arnett Zimmerman
Within resettlement scholarship, there exists a distinct absence of direct narratives by refugee women about their resettlement experiences within the United States. This absence of voice has even been noted by refugee women representatives during a 2013 UNHCR dialogue stating that: “We call for a model in which the State, the municipalities, NGOs and refugees work together to learn from each other, hear the voices from the grassroots and together develop comprehensive, coordinated and long-term responses” (Speaking for Ourselves: Hearing Refugee Voices, A Journey Towards Empowerment). This study delves into this absence of voice locally, investigating the ways in which refugee women’s narratives are received and utilized within the Harrisonburg Church World Service (CWS) refugee resettlement agency. This ethnographic study includes a six-month observation of the CWS Cultural Orientation class and independent interviews with refugee women and resettlement staff. Utilizing Ernest Stringer’s method of action research and Cheryl Glenn’s Rhetoric of Silence, I argue that refugee women’s narratives are not wholly absent or silent, but rather that they are rarely acknowledged, often devalued, or inadvertently made a non-priority within larger resettlement frameworks and leadership. It is my suggestion that, by working with refugee women, prioritizing their experiences, and creating spaces in which these narratives can emerge, resettlement leadership can better serve our refugee communities. I end with a call to all researchers and community members to aid in the creation of these spaces and the valuing of refugee women’s experiences and narratives. This study is limited because the sample pool was small and the impact and reception of this study cannot be fully measured.
Sink, Alys N., "The role of refugee women narratives in the U.S. resettlement process" (2017). Masters Theses. 523.