Helping new neighbors: Resettlement workers' construction of refugee identity

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Robert C. Bogdan


Resettlement workers, Refugee, Identity

Subject Categories

Race and Ethnicity | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Work | Sociology


This dissertation addresses how people who do resettlement work in one Eastern United States city help their refugee clients transition from outsiders to members of their local communities. The study was conducted using the qualitative methods of semi-structured, in-depth interviews and participant observation with sixty people from 12 organizations who identify themselves as being connected to the city's refugee resettlement system. Conceptually located at the intersection of the disciplines of immigration/refugee studies and the work coming out of the areas of privilege/social inequality, this study is designed to look at immigration from the vantagepoint of where the edges meet. My belief is that it is important not only to take into account the kinds of adjustments newcomers must make to their adopted environments, but also how members of the host society influence immigrants' ability to transition into and deal with dominant culture. This work also attempts to identify ways in which the concrete actions of individuals reflect the systems in which they operate. In sum, the current study examines how the layers of American cultural ideologies, federal and state policies, and organizational pressures influence the ways resettlement workers help their clients accomplish "integration" into the American community. In the process, I consider how the dynamics of privilege and inequality are played out in that social interaction.


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