My research centers on migration, social inequalities, feminism, and urban anthropology. My work builds on critical race theory, feminist theory, and the anthropology of violence and citizenship to interrogate how different forms of racism, ethnonationalism, sexism, and neoliberalism shape individuals, groups, organizations, and cities. Looking at local contexts and their particular histories as well as their connections to global processes and assemblages, I study the ways in which groups and individuals accommodate, perpetuate, and resist social structures. As an applied anthropologist, I also work to change organizations to become more diverse and inclusive.
Race-ing Fargo: Refugees, Citizenship, and the Transformation of Small Cities
For the last 10 years, I have primarily worked on refugee resettlement to North and South Dakota. My book manuscript, which is presently under review, outlines the ways in which refugee resettlement served as a change agent in Fargo, North Dakota. In 1990, more than 97 percent of Fargo’s population was white. In 2010, 90 percent of Fargo was white and six percent of citizens were foreign-born, most of who were refugees. Though refugees were not the only foreign-born members of Fargo’s increasingly racially diverse population, they were the most visible. My book traces the history of refugee resettlement to Fargo focusing on institutional transformations and changing ideas about citizenship, race, and ethnicity. It has two central aims: The first is to analyze the role and relationship of public and private institutions in small cities, particularly the role that race plays in shaping everyday practices. Part of this is to give people working towards social justice and inclusivity in small Midwestern cities more visibility. The second aim is to challenge narrow, stereotypical perceptions of refugees as mere victims or recipients of aid and instead portray New Americans as shapers of their own destinies and the future of cities.
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. 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 co-researchers and I found that Romani women faced greater degrees of domestic and structural forms of violence than non-Romani women. We published our project in the Bosnian, English, and Romani languages. In the summer of 2003, I returned to Bosnia 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 research in Fargo built on this work by comparing the experiences of Bosnian Roma and Bosnian ethnic Muslims (Bosniaks) in North Dakota.
Southern Sudanese Political Subjectivity in Sioux Falls
From 2001-2002, I worked as a case manager for Lutheran Social Service Refugee and Immigration Program in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Since then, I have conducted sporadic research there, primarily with Southern Sudanese on their relationship with the city of Sioux Falls and the cultivation of their political subjectivity as transnational citizens of both Sioux Falls/the United States and the world’s newest nation of South Sudan. This work is part of the time I spent as a member of the South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network, a transnational women’s organization that seeks to increase women’s status and political participation in South Sudan.
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.
The Politics of Taxes
From 2006-2010, I worked as a research assistant to Dr. Sandra Morgen and with 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. I am currently examining the role that women played in the Tea Parties and what they have accomplished over the 10 years since the Tea Parties first emerged.
Current and future research
I am conducting comparative ethnographic research between Muncie, Indiana, known as Middletown USA, where I currently live, and Zenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, where I lived from 1998-2000. Both sites are small post-industrial cities that face some of the same kinds of challenges, like high unemployment rates, drug abuse, and political corruption. However, they also have groups of people in civil society (nonprofit organizations, for example) and in the arts, who are working hard to make their cities livable. I will be leading ethnographic field schools to these sites and asking students and city residents to assist in the design and direction of this research.