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Two Paths Forward: An Ethnographic Study of Somali Bantu Refugees Living in a Northeastern City Public Housing Community

Dyer, Ervin (2016) Two Paths Forward: An Ethnographic Study of Somali Bantu Refugees Living in a Northeastern City Public Housing Community. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In 1991, civil war struck the Northeastern African nation of Somalia. In the nation’s collapse, thousands of Somali Bantu were displaced from southern Somalia. An estimated 14,000 were eventually relocated to the United States, making them the largest refugee group ever resettled in the United States. When they arrived, the Somali Bantu, one of the most persecuted ethnic groups in Somalia, became a rural people thrust into a post-industrial global American society. They are one of the most culturally dissimilar groups to come to the U.S: they arrived with very little formal education, a language barrier; are Muslims in a predominantly Christian space; and are agrarians placed amid an urban social mosaic. There are about 50 Somali Bantu families living in this Northeastern city and socioeconomic factors have pushed one-third of these families into an isolated, impoverished and nearly all-Black American public housing project.
This ethnographic study is focused on 13 Somali Bantu male heads of household who live in this community. I ask two primary research questions: How do Somali Bantu men, who live in an impoverished, segregated public housing community, access and maintain employment? And, despite challenges of race and class, what resources do they deploy to assimilate toward the larger society? Over a three-year period, I used informal and structured interviews, more than 700 hours of participant and non-obtrusive observation, and census research to investigate how Somali Bantu male heads of household are “survivors” who build beneficial social networks with middle-income white volunteers from faith-based and refugee support groups and that they also rely upon a set of friendly neighbors to settle into the public housing space.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Dyer, ErvinEdyer@pitt.eduEDYER
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairDuck,
Committee CoChairHashimoto,
Committee ChairDavis,
Committee ChairBell,
Date: 28 September 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 April 2016
Approval Date: 28 September 2016
Submission Date: 14 June 2016
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 221
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Race, class, immigration, refugees, urban, ethnography
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2016 00:23
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2018 05:15


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