Rieti Gengo

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Notre Dame, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9408

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Gengo, Rieti G., U. of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN - To aid research on 'Biosocial Correlates of Political Invisibility Among Asylum Seekers at Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya,' supervised by Dr. Rahul C. Oka

RIETI G. GENGO, then a graduate student at University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, was awarded a grant in April 2017 to aid research on ‘Biosocial Correlates of Political Invisibility Among Asylum Seekers at Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya,’ supervised by Dr. Rahul C. Oka. Given that the number of displaced persons worldwide currently sits at a record high, the mental and physical well-being of encamped refugees is of crucial concern. This dissertation project situates refugee well-being at the nexus of daily social practice, social support network behavior, bureaucratic processes of categorization and regimentation, and physiological stress. In a sample of 170 Somali and Oromo Ethiopian refugees, this research examines how these multi-scalar, yet interdependent facets of lived experience contribute to refugees’ ability to cope with the psychological traumas associated with prolonged waiting, idleness, and sense of a ‘life on hold” that characterize life under encampment. Many refugees are rendered essentially invisible under conditions of extended institutional neglect, which was predicted to have tangible, negative effects across diverse measures of well-being. Ethnographic data reveal that the daily social routine of sitting together, engaging in culturally salient practices, offers refugees at Kakuma opportunities for commiseration, collective memory formation, and a sense of control that they would otherwise lack. Subsequent analysis will incorporate quantitative data on social support networks and biomarkers of health and physiological status in order to tease apart divergent experiences under distinct bureaucratic pressures, and to construct a biocultural model of psychosocial resilience.