Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, Anthropology, University of Michigan

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 1997
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Emory University
Identities and the Negotiation of Displacement in Southeastern Guinea, West Africa

This project compares regional and international idioms of identity and their connections to the strategies used by displaced persons and their hosts to negotiate livable solutions to the displacements caused by the Liberian civil war. The research will take place in Macenta prefecture, Guinea, and will use socio-cultural anthropological and historical methods to collect data about historical patterns of displacement and accommodation, and how they relate to patterns in the negotiation of self-settlement today. Research will focus equally on refugees and hosts, and will take place in a village of 500-1000 persons (primary research site), with comparative data coming from a refugee camp and a quarter of Macenta town of comparable size. Data collection and analysis will be organized through the case study method. The principle assumption of the research is that accommodation of displaced persons in this region is achieved through complex marriage/ritual alliances. This system acknowledges but downplays ethnicity, and ignores nationality as relevant to the feasibility of a negotiated alliance. International aid organizations consider nationality and ethnicity to be refugees' defining characteristics. The research will enquire how actors negotiate these contrasting systems in particular social fields. The results will add to our knowledge about situational identity and ethnicity, and will facilitate more effective humanitarian interventions. The project compares historical and contemporary displacements and ideologies of identity, the importance of two different national cultures within a region, and local versus global notions of identity, personhood, and agency.