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An Analysis of Intergenerational Transmissions of Cultural Knowledge from Resettled Somali Bantu Women to Their Children in Buffalo, New York

Bailey, Madison Taylor

In 1991, a violent civil war erupted in Somalia, following the overthrow of the military regime of Siad Barre, and soon after, civil society and governance structures collapsed. Since the outbreak of the civil war, more than two million Somalis are currently displaced: an estimated 1.5 million people are internally displaced in Somalia, while an estimated 900,000 are refugees who reside outside of the country. The main research question of this paper is: how does the intergenerational transmissions of culture among resettled Somali Bantu women and children in Buffalo, New York, create the space for younger generations to reflect on their past and the experiences of their ancestors, while maintaining their Somali Bantu identity and integrating with American culture? This paper unpacks the western notion of inherently linking one’s identity to a territorially-defined place, by exploring themes of identity, belonging, citizenship, and nationality, set against the highly nationalized political atmosphere in the United States of America. This thesis directly engages with the literature of Liisa Malkki and her theory of ‘rootedness’ as a metaphorical way of understanding identity. Building off of Malkki’s work, this paper argues it is necessary to shift the understanding of intergenerational trauma to one of intergenerational culture, as once trauma surpasses one generation, it is integrated into the cultural identity of future generations. Through participant observation and qualitative interviews with intergenerational members of the Somali Bantu diaspora, this paper analyzes the use of farming as a mechanism for facilitating the intergenerational transmission of culture heritage between resettled Somali Bantu women and children. This thesis analyzes intergenerational transmissions of culture among resettled Somali Bantu women and children, against the backdrop of tensions surrounding refugee resettlement policies in the United States. This paper sits at the intersection of the fields of literature relating to refugee resettlement, memory and diaspora studies, and the connection between human rights and memory. This thesis ultimately argues that the mechanism of farming provides resettled Somali Bantu women and children with the space necessary to transmit culture through storytelling about ancestral knowledge, in order to maintain the longevity of the Somali Bantu diaspora in the United States of America. This thesis directly engages with the topic of human rights and subsequently qualifies as an original piece of human rights literature, as it proposes that the mechanism of farming enables the resettled Somali Bantu population with the opportunity to act on the inherent human right to culture through the right of individuals and communities to know, understand, visit, make use of, maintain, exchange, and develop cultural heritage and cultural expressions.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Eberbach, Kristina Renee
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
August 24, 2020