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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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The Story of Precious

A nearly blind mother of three leaves Cameroon to travel alone through South and Mesoamerica in hopes of reaching the

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Archetypes of Escape #2: “I felt compelled to escape grinding poverty and exploitation”

Includes: escape from debt; Juju; weakening incomes; exploitative work like sex work; indentured farm labor

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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?

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Researching Haitian Migrants as a Haitian Researcher

By Tania Smith, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. By the time I received approval to research the integration strategies of Haitian migrants living in Tijuana, they had already been covered extensively by the media. As a Haitian–American who was raised in Haiti, I knew that I would be able to process and understand nuances that other researchers and journalists could not. I am a fluent French and Haitian Creole speaker with innate knowledge of Haitian culture. My expectations for myself were high. I assumed that I would arrive in Tijuana and immediately be able to fit in and connect with the migrants. I assumed that because I was a “compatriot,” Haitians would be ready and willing to interview with me and I would be welcomed into their community with open arms. I was wrong.

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