Performing Bantu: Narrative Constructions of Identity in Diaspora
Deramo, Michele C.
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This research asks the question of how three young adults construct identity while living in diaspora. The subjects of the research came to the United States as a part of the Somali Bantu resettlement in 2004. The study begins with a trajectory analysis of the people now known as Somali Bantu, beginning with their forced migration to Somalia and the various factors shaping their status in the country. The analysis continues through the period of displacement, flight, and human warehousing in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps of Kenya and includes an examination of how bureaucratic labeling as refugees, and the public rhetoric of mainstream media further shaped the story of the Somali Bantu. Each of these moments through the refugee trajectory are foundational to the self-representations emerging in diaspora. Using autoethnographic and portraiture methodologies, the author analyzes the subjects' discursive practices associated with cultural sustainability, as well as deployment of social media in rejecting and resisting social and cultural influences that threaten the integrity of Somali Bantu identity in the United States. The dissertation also situates the subjects within the broader Somali Bantu diaspora in the United States and Europe as they create home through a Somali Bantu aesthetic, form community through mutual assistance associations, construct mediascapes that circulates information globally, and build a transnational movement that aims to end the suffering of Wagosha people in Somalia. Overall, the research demonstrates the discursivity of identity, showing how a particular group reconstitutes itself through engagements with multiple and often disparate cultures, traditions, languages, and histories.
- Doctoral Dissertations