When the Heart Grows Sad: Loss, Absence, and the Embodiment of Traumatic Memory amongst Somali Bantu Refugees in Kansas City
Ghazali, Marwa Hamed
University of Kansas
This item is protected by copyright and unless otherwise specified the copyright of this thesis/dissertation is held by the author.
MetadataShow full item record
Anthropological approaches to the study of suffering amongst refugee populations have characterized refugees as "liminal" relative to their citizenship status within the "national order of things" (Malkki 1992). By adopting this lens, resettlement organizations and international relief agencies understand suffering as a result of the loss of national citizenship, and thus frame "healing" through the recreation of the sense of national belonging either through repatriation or resettlement. However, this approach fails to capture suffering as it is understood and experienced by refugees themselves. Furthermore, it misses the particularity of violent experience, and the specific ways by which individuals and groups are made to suffer. Instead, anthropologists must ask themselves how violence targets culturally embedded understandings of identity and meaning-making, and how individuals and groups who survive violence attempt to deal with these changes in order to recreate identity at both the individual and collective levels after the fact. Through this research on Somali Bantu refugee experience, I hope to shed light on the particularity of traumatic memory and the specific ways by which this community attempts to deal with the ongoing nature of suffering. Within the Somali Bantu refugee community in Kansas City, suffering does not result from the loss of citizenship status, but rather, from the loss of familiar relationships through which meaning and identity are derived. I argue that within this community, traumatic memory is lodged in the everyday lives of those who experienced the violence because of the way these losses have created an ongoing sense of absence that remains pervasive even after resettlement. Through personal narratives of suffering collected during my two years of fieldwork in this community, I will show how the traumatic memory of loss becomes absence, how absence is then incorporated into the everyday reality of the members of this community, and how knowledge of the absence, and memories of the trauma, become embodied in the present as "lived suffering," structuring everyday realities and social relations (Das 1996, 2007; Farmer 1996; Kleinman & Kleinman 1996; Scheper-Hughes 1992, 1996). Through this lens, I will also show how efforts of mending, centered on the strategic use of silence at the collective level, impacts the individuals through whom silence is facilitated, thus illustrating the relationship between collective memory and individual bodies.
- Anthropology Dissertations and Theses 
- Theses 
Items in KU ScholarWorks are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.
We want to hear from you! Please share your stories about how Open Access to this item benefits YOU.