Uprooted and Unwanted: Bosnian Refugees in Austria and the United States

Uprooted and Unwanted: Bosnian Refugees in Austria and the United States

Uprooted and Unwanted: Bosnian Refugees in Austria and the United States

Uprooted and Unwanted: Bosnian Refugees in Austria and the United States

Synopsis

The tragedy of war does not end when the soldiers put down their guns. Among the after-effects, the dislocation and relocation of civilians often loom large. The aftermath of the Bosnian conflicts has left many refugees needing to establish new lives, often in radically different cultures. In "Uprooted and Unwanted," Barbara Franz offers a cogent look at how these refugees have fared in two representative cities--Vienna and New York City.

Between 1991 and 2001, some 30,000 Bosnian refugees settled in Austria, and 120,000 found their way to the United States. Franz focuses on the strategies, skills, and informal networks used by Bosnian refugees, particularly women, to adapt to official policies and administrative practices in their host societies. Her analysis concludes that historically inaccurate ideas on how to deal with displaced persons have led to policies in both Europe and North America that have adversely affected those whose lives have been devastated by war.

Excerpt

“TO ADAPT TO LIFE here was more excruciating than to live through the war in Brčko,” said the young Bosnian refugee with sincere conviction. She might have been referring to the difficulties of finding a decent job, her life in the tiny apartment with no running water, the hardships of getting by on very little money, or her experience with xenophobic natives. Her experience as a refugee in the wealthy North/West, however, was by no means unique. Her statement represents a realization quite common among Bosnian refugees who settled in Austria or the United States. In Uprooted and Unwanted I analyze the plight of Bosnian refugees in two large cities, one in Austria and one in the United States, in a sociopolitically increasingly exclusivist environment. I examine the socioeconomic adaptation mechanisms Bosnian refugee men and women use to adjust in Vienna’s and New York’s host environments. The Bosnians’ flight and adaptation were affected by host countries’ shifts in their refugee and asylum policies from a focus on resettling refugees in third countries to a focus on containing refugees in areas close to the conflict.

A comparison of Bosnian refugee settlement in Vienna and New York City is important and timely for several reasons. Little research has been done on the conditions of the more than two million Bosnian refugees in Europe and other countries. Moreover, few scholarly works compare the interaction during settlement between the structural factors in host societies and the sociocultural variables of the refugee community. Even rarer are studies exploring how refugees themselves perceived their adaptation to host societies with strikingly dissimilar settlement policies. The purpose of my research is to fill this void and to provide, through a comparative analysis, insights into both the sociopolitical and economic settlement processes of Bosnian refugees in Austria and the United States and the agency of individual Bosnian men and women in these processes.

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