Date of Graduation

Spring 5-21-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Migration Studies


College of Arts and Sciences


Migration Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Jane Pak


The violence and displacement many refugees face often create a lifelong trauma that manifests in many ways within themselves, their families, and communities. The Somali refugee community in the United States is no different. Since their resettlement in America started in the 1990s following the civil war, the community has struggled with different manifestations of that trauma; substance abuse and gang violence among the youth, prominence of depression and suicide rates, rise of domestic violence, as well as other direct and indirect results associated with mental health. This is the reality of many refugee and immigrant communities, coming directly from the lack of mental health services within resettlement projects. Therefore, what I seek to highlight in my research is the need for mental health services to refugees after resettlement as well as better integration models. Furthermore, through an analysis of art, poetry, and storytelling, I show how despite the community’s struggles, they remain resilient and hopeful. This creates a different point of interaction with refugees in general; communities who are vulnerable to toxic hypervisibility but retain their agency throughout.

In essence, my research is advocating for the provision of culturally-sensitive mental health services to refugees (both the Somali community as well as other immigrant and refugee communities), understanding the reconstruction of the Somali identity in the diaspora and how continued production of Somali indigenous knowledge is being used to combat historical and cultural trauma as well as building resilience across generations of Somali refugees. This research seeks to add to that pool of knowledge and create a counternarrative to the stereotypical image of what Black, African and Muslim refugees are like.