Resilience and Religion in a Forced Migration Context : A narrative study of religiousness as a resilience factor in dealing with refugee experiences from a post-migration perspective of Bosnian refugees in Sweden

Detta är en avhandling från Lund University (Media-Tryck)

Sammanfattning: Popular Abstract in English Every level of human existence is affected by forced migration. It affects the central aspects of our outer and inner life. However, scientific research focused on the inner life of forced migrants, in particular the one regarding the impacts of forced migration on the most significant values that we hold in life, is often marginalized in forced migration studies. In an attempt to bridge this gap, this study was an inquiry into people’s inner worlds as they strive to deal with this life situation. Being forcedly displaced implies an exposure to the life-long consequences of stressful experiences and involves “…a radical restructuring of one’s cognitive, emotional, symbolic and assumptive world…”, as Ron Baker (1990:65), a refugee from World War II and today’s research officer with the British Refugee Council, also noted. Though often neglected in refugee studies, one of the vital aspects of these restructurings is the process of re-evaluating the meaning of life. Life-changing events that transform our understanding of life and our approach to it and are not only reflected in the visible structures of rebuilding and trauma adaptation but are also reflected in our reasoning and recapturing of the meaning and purpose of life itself. Therefore, in this study, the relevant, often neglected overall research question was asked: How can the immense changes brought on by forced migration be processed and dealt with in a personally meaningful way as life continues its course? For the purpose of the study, narratives were collected from 20 refugee informants from Bosnia-Herzegovina who had settled in Sweden. These narratives are retrospective stories told from today’s post-migration perspective, and offer insights into individual’s dealing with the stressful aspects of war, refugee and relocation experiences. A vital aspect of the personal stories in this study is that they are not the stories of passive individuals, incapacitated by their stressful life experiences. Rather, they are stories of strong individuals who moved forward with their lives in resilience, hope and optimism in spite of a harrowing and life-shattering past which still leaves imprints on their self awareness and outlook. The experiences of war and forced migration have abruptly changed the course of these persons’ lives and exposed them to a complex ongoing struggle for self-survival in all domains of life. Nonetheless, these individuals have found means of sustaining themselves by fitting these dramatic changes into their positive assumptions and understanding of life. Consequently, the results of this study indicate that resilience, or the indigenous human potential to overcome complex adversities, does not lie in turning away from negative events and their impact, but in reconstructing them in ways that are personally and contextually more constructive and adaptive to the individual. As is shown by this study, the restructuring of life’s continuity and the remodeling of devastated human worlds involves a religious processing of life’s changes and a variety of religious strategies for “successfully” dealing with the strained reality of forced migration and resettlement. The thesis thus sheds light on the specific religious resilience employed by the informants in the context of forced migration adversities, accounted for from their post-migration perspective.

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