Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign
The Fraudulent Family: Kinship, Knowledge, and Uncertainty in Refugee Resettlement from Nairobi

In 2008, the US government instituted a DNA pilot program to assess "fraud" in its Refugee Family Reunification Program. Over 80% of refugees "failed." While the US government took these results as confirmation of lies and deception, this research seeks to understand the social and cultural processes undergirding this social fact. In addition to genetic requirements, the Family Reunification Program rests on normative, US ideas about familial love and stable cohabitation. In what ways do ideologies of family that shape refugee resettlement policies—including the importance of genetics, and notions of "enduring love" that preclude pragmatic interests—conflict or converge with ideas about kinship and familial practices among refugees in Kenya? How do these and other discourses inform kinship as refugees living in Kenya seek resettlement in the United States? By charting how claims to kinship are articulated, negotiated, contested, or denied within an assemblage of state, non-governmental, and stateless actors involved in refugee resettlement in Nairobi, this research investigates multiple articulations of power as they shape the "family unit." Attending to uncertainties and mutual misunderstanding between refugees and the people who assess their claims, I approach "the family" as a lens into a broader paradox of the interwoven threads of humanitarianism and security that forge refugee resettlement as an ideological practice. By locating "the family" on fortified frontiers between East Africa and the US—where kinship exists as a contested sphere of knowledge—I propose an ethnography of kinship on the border.