Research

Dissertation Research

What can relationships between refugees and social service providers in Fargo, North Dakota, tell us about how citizenship is experienced and negotiated on an everyday level? What role do race, ethnicity, religion, class, and gender play in these quotidian dramas?  My (2010) dissertation answered these questions by comparing and contrasting two groups of refugees (Bosnians and Southern Sudanese) and two social service organizations (refugee resettlement and welfare). I wanted to know how these groups influenced one another on individual, group, and policy-levels. I explained how staff representing multiple faces of the state (e.g. public and private) interacted with a diverse range of refugee groups and how these relationships transformed the small city of Fargo. I also highlight the importance of city as context and how the political, economic, and cultural landscape of this small city influenced the above relationships. I am currently working on a manuscript about this research.

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Past Research

Gendered Neglect: Romani Women in Post-War Bosnia-Herzegovina

From 1998-2000, I worked for Medica Infoteka, a local women’s NGO founded as a response to rape and other forms of violence against women during the 1992-95 war. As a volunteer, I coordinated research on the prevalence and scope of violence and neglect against Romani women in post-war Bosnia. After conducting more than 100 quantitative interviews and more than two dozen oral history interviews, my colleagues and I found that Romani women appeared to face greater degrees of domestic and structural forms of violence than non-Romani women. They faced multiple forms of violence. We published our project in the Bosnian, English, and Romani languages. In the summer of 2003, I returned to BH to complete research for my (2004) Master’s paper at the University of Oregon, in which I further explored the prevalence of multiple forms of violence, from individual to state-sponsored, throughout Romani women’s lives. I addressed the role of the state, local and international NGOs in regards to their (lack of) programs with Roma. My dissertation research built on this work by comparing the experiences of Bosnian Roma and Bosnian ethnic Muslims (Bosniaks) in Fargo.

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The Politics of Taxes in the Obama Era

From 2006-2010, I worked as a research assistant to Dr. Sandra Morgen and fellow graduate student Patrick Hayden at the University of Oregon on the politics of taxes in Oregon. While conducting this research, in 2009, Tea Parties around the nation emerged as responses to the economic recession and election of the first African-American President, Barack Obama. We documented these Tea Parties ethnographically, along with other varieties of tax activism.

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South Sudanese Women and Transnational Feminist Activism

In 2005, I joined the South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network (SSWEN). SSWEN first formed through an electronic list serve in 2005 and has since emerged as a driver of Southern Sudanese women’s transnational activism. In the beginning, it was composed primarily of women (and a few men) in the US and some women in Sudan who had begun to connect though online conversations. From the start SSWEN leaders represented many ethnic groups from the South. As SSWEN grew in popularity and online membership increased, founders sought to reach out to a diverse range of women and began organizing conferences and fundraising events throughout the U.S. The goal of the meetings was to hear from a broad base of women and to take their testimonies into account while shaping an emerging mission and vision. Women and some men from widely varying socioeconomic classes, regions, and ethnicities attended early meetings, where heated debates unfolded around women’s appropriate roles in society in Sudan and in the diaspora. In 2008, I played a small role in coordinating the first SSWEN conference in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. The conference brought women from all over the South and from different ethnic, linguistic, and social class background to talk about empowerment. Human Geographer Caroline Faria published an article in SIGNS (2012) talking about the role of this conference in facilitating transnational feminist activism.

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Future research

I will be on special assigned leave in fall 2015 in order to transform my dissertation research into a manuscript. In it, I will argue that processes of misrecognition and dependence, of inclusion and exclusion, are not only produced from the top down (by social service agencies) or the bottom up (by refugees), they are also made sideways and diagonally.

When I return from my special assigned leave, I plan to study how people in Muncie, Indiana, experience postindustrialism on an everyday level and in a variety of ways (e.g. emotionally, physically, cognitively). I will recruit undergraduate and graduate students to lead and participate in local collaborative ethnographic research with the ultimate goals of creating a snapshot of Muncie nearly 100 years after Robert and Helen Lynch published their groundbreaking book Middletown (1929), based on life in Muncie as representative of a typical small American city. The goal of this project is not only to provide an ongoing picture of Middletown, adding to a long list of other Middletown Studies scholars, but also to build relationships between the university and city that are guided from beginning to end by Muncie residents.

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