Refugees and asylum seekers: exploring the nature and role of resilience

March-McDonald, Jane (2010) Refugees and asylum seekers: exploring the nature and role of resilience University of Southampton, School of Social Sciences, Doctoral Thesis , 285pp.


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This thesis examines the nature and role of resilience in forced migrants’ lives with particular reference to the day-to-day lives of Somali women living in the UK. In contrast to the dominant discourse of victimhood associated with the label of ‘forced migrant’ this empirical study explores the notion of the ‘strong migrant woman’. Drawing upon perspectives that illuminate power relations and adopting a social constructionist framework, a qualitative and predominantly ethnographic approach was taken to elicit Somali women’s accounts of their family life in a city in southern England. Challenges encountered within the research field, including language barriers, issues of informed consent and women’s reluctance to engage with the study, led to the adoption of an increasingly informal, flexible process of data generation. This was via formal and informal individual and group interviews and participant observation of women’s daily activities. Together these rich sources of data illuminate the complexity and contraction of the resilience concept and in doing so promote a more informed understanding of the diversity and richness of forced migrants’ lives.

Findings from this study challenge the use of static frameworks and labels in determining and categorising migratory journeys and experiences of (re)settlement. The need for recognition of the complexity and fluidity surrounding the nature of border crossings is argued. Drawing on a pluralistic theoretical approach to understanding resilience, this thesis illuminates the complex ways in which risk and protection, strengths and vulnerability operate within women’s day-to-day lives. ‘Complexity and contradiction’ and ‘movement and fluidity’ are identified as key inter-related themes in understanding the nature of resilience within these migrant women’s family life. A model developed on the basis of this study’s findings and encompassing a more holistic approach is outlined as a potential tool to aid the complex task of resilience assessment.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Organisations: University of Southampton, Faculty of Social, Human and Mathematical Sciences
ePrint ID: 341938
Date :
Date Event
September 2010Published
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2012 16:10
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 16:43
Further Information:Google Scholar

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