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Title:More than English: Karen refugees negotiating their lifestyle in a cosmopolitan city
Author(s):Roungchai, Chaitut
Director of Research:Pak, Yoon K.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Pak, Yoon K.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Mayo, Cris S.; Dhillon, Pradeep A.; Cassaniti, Julia
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Educational Policy Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Refugee Resettlement
English as a Second Language (ESL)
Cultural Capital
Karen Refugee Resettlement
Abstract:This dissertation is an ethnographic case study of a Karen refugee resettlement community in Trident City. Due to oppressive control by the Burmese government in Burma, the Karen National Union, a political organization with an armed military called the Karen National Liberation Army, has been fighting an endless on-and-off war against the Burmese military. The outcome of war has made Karen villagers become refugees in Thailand’s Western and Northern provinces. Through UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), these Karen refugees find a new life in the U.S., specifically for this study, Trident City. Resettling in a new environment, particularly a cosmopolitan one in which the Karen refugees have to adjust their new lives to a neoliberal lifestyle, is a very difficult challenge. The challenge becomes obvious when we see a large number of refugees who have no place to work due to the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs as well as their lack of relevant education that would allow them to work other jobs. Life is ever more difficult because they have low cultural capital, which is cultural knowledge that is widely accepted by the elite or majority of the country. In order to accustom their lives better, the Karen must increase their cultural capital. This is typically done through the acquisition of the English-language, furthering education, particularly a post-secondary education and the experiences of living life in a neoliberal context Trident City has to offer. I observed Karen refugees in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class setting, home tutoring, and mentoring sessions to understand their process of settlement. In the end, the Karen are having to struggle in order to live a better life than their former lives in the Thai refugee camps. As they live their lives in the U.S., they gain bits and pieces of cultural capital along the way. How much cultural capital do they need to survive the harsh realities of a neoliberal lifestyle?
Issue Date:2014-05-30
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Chaitut Roungchai
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-05-30
Date Deposited:2014-05

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