Long-Distance Journeys

These publications probe how migrants and refugees finance their extra-continental journeys and amass funds along their routes. Publications include a mix of papers, reports and essays, each with a different view on the challenges that shape people’s journey strategies.

Financial Inclusion in Refugee Economies

An essay by Kim Wilson and Roxanne Krystalli. Financial inclusion as a term and topic has become popular in humanitarian settings. A mounting global refugee crisis has brought financial access into the focus of donors and practitioners. In this paper, we ask questions that concern both donors and practitioners: Is digital, formal finance – at the heart of most financial inclusion strategies – suited to the needs of refugees, migrants, and displaced populations? Must financial inclusion approaches be tailored for maximum relevance in contexts of protracted displacement or resettlement? ...

The Financial Journey of Refugees: Evidence from Greece, Jordan, and Turkey

A full report, executive summary, and a compendium of field notes, by Kim Wilson and Roxanne Krystalli. The Financial Journeys of Refugees investigates what money and financial transactions can reveal about the journeys and experiences of forced migration. We examine money as a key node of the displacement experience: fueling transactions among formal and informal actors along the way; determining livelihood options; shaping or restructuring kinship networks; and coloring risks, vulnerabilities, or protective forces available to refugees. Our inquiry highlights these transactions and the power dynamics that unfold among refugees as well as between refugees and formal or informal authorities. ...

‘I followed the flood’: A Gender Analysis of the Moral and Financial Economies of Forced Migration

An article by Roxanne Krystalli, Allyson Hawkins, and Kim Wilson, published in "Disasters." What would a gender analysis of refugee crises reveal if one expanded the focus beyond female refugees, and acts of physical violence? This paper draws on qualitative research conducted in Denmark, Greece, Jordan, and Turkey in July and August 2016 to spotlight the gendered kinship, hierarchies, networks, and transactions that affect refugees. The coping strategies of groups often overlooked in the gender conversation are examined throughout this study, including those of male refugees and those making crossings outside of the context of a family unit. The analysis is theoretically situated at the intersection of critical humanitarianism and the politics of vulnerability, and rooted in debates about the feminisation of refugees and corresponding protection agendas. A key contribution of this work is the ethnographic tracing of how refugees embody these politics along their journeys. ...
Financial Biographies, Volume 1

Financial Biographies, Volume 1

By Kim Wilson et al. This collection of financial biographies traces the ways in which extra-continental refugees and migrants finance their journeys and manage money along the way. It also highlights the importance of friendships, both old and new, in making a journey possible. Additionally, communication tools like mobile phones, ...

Putting Pieces in Place

By Ella Duncan, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. New arrivals to America must navigate ongoing identification of what American norms are and make decisions about which norms to embrace, which to merge into previously held norms, and which to discard as a poor fit. Financial norms hold a special place of importance. Deciding how to manage finances in America is directly related to the ability to provide for the well-being of oneself, one’s family, and one’s community. In a series of interviews in the fall of 2019, three Burundian immigrants in southern Maine shared their creative approaches to managing American finances. ...

Reflections on Conducting a Lean Research Field Study

By Sarah Carson, under the supervision of Kim Wilson.
Field research is a common and often powerful piece of post-graduate training in international affairs and development. But sending students to the field also comes with risks to both students and study participants. What happens when you send five students abroad to execute Lean Research on their own? What challenges might they encounter, and what innovative solutions could they develop? And what do they learn that could be applied to similar experiences in the future? ...

Retaining, Changing, and Surrendering Hegemonic Masculinities

By Subin Mulmi, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. Transatlantic migration from South Asia is a long, arduous, and expensive journey but each year many South Asians risk their lives to reach the supposed dreamland of the United States. A large majority of the South Asians that I met during our re-search in 2018 in Costa Rica were men, prompting a focus on how men experienced long-distance migration. ...

The Ties that Bind (or Not): Social Networks Among Extra-Continental Migrants

By Heather Kunin, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. Social networks have long been recognized as playing a pivotal role within migration, with multiple studies examining, among other phenomena, the role of social networks in predicting the decision to migrate and choice of destination, as well as in impacting migrants' chances for integration. Social network analysis (SNA) is a methodology for visualizing and interrogating relationships among actors and is highly applicable to a field where social networks are considered “one of the fundamentals of the migration process.” Until recently, this discipline has been woefully underutilized within migration studies, although this is beginning to change. ...

No Sweat – If You Are a Woman

By Madison Chapman, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. What does it mean to have dignity and personal agency as a migrant? Men and women told their stories to me in very distinct ways, through body language and in their retelling of traumatic events. What does this tell us about understanding gender in ethnographic research and the stories we do and do not hear while interviewing? ...

You and I Are Not Friends: The Challenges of Ethnographic Study in the Migration Field

By Padmini Baruah, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. Transnational migration has been one of the most talked-about phenomena of the past decade. With prolonged armed conflict, economic crises, and climate change affecting different parts of the world adversely, it is not a surprise that an estimated 258 million people live in a country that is not the country of their birth.1 Much news has been generated on this subject, and multiple studies have focused on the macro aspects of this issue. However, equally vital is not losing sight of the fact that while broad patterns and theories can explain the macrophenomenon of transnational migration, each migrant’s story is ultimately a subjective and entirely personal lived experience. The powerful contribution of the individual narrative as well as of ethnographic observations to academic studies in this field cannot be overlooked. ...

Tracing the Financial Journeys of Nepali Migrants

By Subin Mulmi, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. The 2015 earthquake in Nepal resulted in the deaths of 8,970 people with 22,302 injured. Several reports have estimated that more than one million houses were destroyed, affecting the lives of six million people. Only a handful of families have been relocated to safer places. Even before the quake, the country was reeling from the effects of the decade-long civil war that claimed the lives of 13,236 people and led to the disappearance of thousands more. In June 2009, the Nepal IDP Working Group reported that up to 70,000 people displaced by the conflict had not yet found durable housing. They remained unable to return home, integrate locally, or resettle elsewhere. ...

What Can Hotels Teach Us about Smuggling?

By Maria Teresa Nagel, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. There is limited research describing the smuggling industry and its actors, particularly in Central America. Our study hopes to address this knowledge gap by disclosing how human smugglers lodge their clients and the role hotels play in the smuggling ecosystem. ...

Migrants Hold onto Their Religious Identities for Emotional Support and to Build Networks Crucial to Their Journeys

By Lea Abi Zeid Daou and Nidhisha Philip, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. Writings on why religion is of significance to individual migrants have explored themes of religion as a reason for migration, religion as a means of sustenance in difficult circumstances, religion as an identity marker in new socio-cultural contexts, and religion as a source of reconciliation and healing. In this essay, we explore some of these same themes, basing our insights on interviews with trans-continental migrants traveling through Costa Rica and bound for the north. ...

In Adjusting to New Labor Markets, Migrants Draw on Past Experience and Retain a Strong Sense of Pride in Being Able to Contribute

By Conor Sanchez, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. Popular notions of migrants as unskilled or uneducated laborers, while sometimes true, are often false. Their jobs back home may not have always ensured adequate income, a factor that could have played a role in their decision to migrate, but they often required some technical knowledge or training. Our subjects had worked as photographers, teachers, accountants, sociologists, and business owners. Some were property owners, tending to farms and livestock or selling various kinds of merchandise out of their home. In many of the interviews, it also became apparent that these jobs had clearly formed an unshakeable part of their identity. ...

Language Isolation on the Migrant Trail

By Charlie Bentley, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. I connected to most migrants I interviewed using the same first casual topic: “I’m struggling to get around without Spanish. What about you?” Despite having the help of two Spanish-speaking colleagues, I still found that traveling through Colombia without Spanish language skills was an immense challenge. ...

Origins Breed Commonalities, Camaraderie, and Conflict

By Aastha Dua and Subin Mulmi, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. The authors observed the South Asian identity play out in interesting and diverse ways among the migrants interviewed. The dynamic between the general populations of these countries—oscillating between brotherly love, jealousy, and rivalry—was reflected in full, as if in a microcosm, among the South Asian migrants traveling to America in their interactions with each other. This essay is an attempt to describe this dynamic, culled from the interviews that were conducted by the authors with the migrants and from their own observations in the CATEMs (Temporary Care Centers for Migrants) and the surrounding areas in Costa Rica. ...

“I’m the Everything”: The Overlooked Heroism of Refugee Youth in the United States

By Julie Zollmann. Nine voluntary agencies have the official responsibility for resettling refugees into communities throughout the United States. They find their clients new housing, schools, and jobs. They help them get social security numbers and open bank accounts. They play an indispensable role in helping refugees settle into their new homes. But the work of integration, of truly building a life in a new country with a new language, new transportation system, new labor market, and a whole new set of social norms is a much bigger job, one that in many families is being done stoically, even heroically, by young refugees in their teens and early twenties. ...

Financial Inclusion in Refugee Economies

An essay by Kim Wilson and Roxanne Krystalli. Financial inclusion as a term and topic has become popular in humanitarian settings. A mounting global refugee crisis has brought financial access into the focus of donors and practitioners. In this paper, we ask questions that concern both donors and practitioners: Is digital, formal finance – at the heart of most financial inclusion strategies – suited to the needs of refugees, migrants, and displaced populations? Must financial inclusion approaches be tailored for maximum relevance in contexts of protracted displacement or resettlement? ...