Narratives of Identity, Home, and Return of Kosovarian Refugees: Steps toward a Postmodern Sense of Agency

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Narratives of Identity, Home, and Return of Kosovarian Refugees: Steps toward a Postmodern Sense of Agency
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Copyright 2005 by Marco Gemignani


This dissertation is dedicated to my son, Giancarlo, a constant source of wonder, curiosity, and fun.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS My biggest acknowledgement is for Yolanda, my caring partner and close friend, companion of tons of life experiences. Warm thanks go to my advisor and the members of my doctoral committee for having been, and continuing to be, ongoing sources of learning and inspiration. An extraordinary recognition goes to my family and friends in Italy for enabling my privileged position of having plural homes. Also, special thanks are for the colleagues of the Suffolk University Counseling Center and for all the thoughtful persons who served as my counseling supervisors during the doctoral program. All of them helped me with the endless task of translating into practice too many philosophical readings and wonderings. Finally, this study would not have been possible without the enthusiastic help of my closest collaborators, the refugees from Kosovo, who taught me about the humane aspects and consequences of forced migration. iv


TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv LIST OF FIGURES.........................................................................................................viii ABSTRACT.......................................................................................................................ix CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION...................................................................................................1 1.1 The Contexts of the Research......................................................................3 1.1.1 The Importance of Context..............................................................6 1.1.2 The Context of Kosovo....................................................................8 1.1.3 The Socio-Political Context of Kosovarian Refugees in the U.S..10 1.1.4 The Socio-Political Context of Kosovarian Asylum Seekers in the U.S............................................................................................11 1.1.5 Serbian-Kosovarian Displaced Individuals....................................12 1.1.6 The Context of the Author.............................................................14 1.2 A Short Introduction to the Research Goals from a Narrative-Postmodern Perspective.............................................................................16 1.2.1 Reinterpreting Expectations from a Position of Shared Responsibility and Post-Structuralism...........................................16 1.2.2 Introducing the Research Goals: Exploring Narratives and Discourses about Identity, Home, and Return...............................18 1.2.3 Understanding Empowerment and Agency: Steps Towards a Field Intervention...........................................................................20 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE.......................................................................23 2.1 Refugees and Displaced Population (DP)..................................................23 2.1.1 The Difficult Definition of “Refugee”: From the Etymological to the Political................................................................................23 2.1.2 Mental Health and Psychological Concerns of Refugees and DP: Neither Here Nor There..........................................................26 2.1.3 Critics of the Use of DSM Categories for Refugees......................28 2.1.4 Beyond the Individualistic Focus...................................................30 v


2.1.5 Some Common Assumptions on the Refugee Experience and the Concept of “Home” in Discourses of Return and Cultural Integration......................................................................................31 2.2 Home..........................................................................................................33 2.2.1 Home and Place.............................................................................35 2.2.2 Home and Forced Displacement....................................................36 2.2.3 Belonging.......................................................................................37 2.3 Return.........................................................................................................38 2.3.1 Conditions for Return to Kosovo...................................................38 2.3.2 Assumptions in the Idea of Return.................................................39 2.4 Identity.......................................................................................................43 2.4.1 Refugees’ Belongingness and Constructions of Identity...............43 2.4.2 Narrative-Postmodern Identity.......................................................46 2.5 Agency.......................................................................................................48 2.5.1 Sense of Agency and Responsibility..............................................51 2.5.2 Identity and Agency.......................................................................52 3 METHOD..............................................................................................................56 3.1 The Research Question: Key Concepts and Purposes...............................56 3.2 Theoretical Perspectives............................................................................60 3.2.1 The Importance of Context............................................................61 3.2.2 The Postmodern Bases of the Research.........................................62 Epistemology.....................................................................63 Knowledge from Power and as Power...............................68 Implications for Counseling Psychology...........................70 3.2.3 The Narrative Approach................................................................72 Why Study Narratives?......................................................73 Narrative Inquiry: Different Interpretations of a Popular Methodology......................................................................76 Narrative coherence...........................................................79 3.2.4 Theoretical and Epistemological Bases for the Development of a Narrative-Postmodern Approach to Research and Counseling...81 Summary of the Theoretical and Methodological Positions of This Research.................................................81 Counter-Narratives.............................................................83 Authorship and Agency.....................................................88 3.3 The Methodology of This Study................................................................89 3.3.1 Integrating Narrative Approaches and Postmodern Philosophies.89 3.3.2 Participants.....................................................................................93 3.3.3 Data Collection..............................................................................94 The Challenge of Gaining Access to the Refugee Community and Sampling.................................................94 Data Collection..................................................................96 3.3.4 Transcriptions................................................................................97 3.3.5 Ethical Concerns............................................................................97 3.3.6 Validity..........................................................................................99 vi

PAGE 7 Validity in Qualitative Research........................................99 Validity of This Study......................................................103 The Option of Member-Checking....................................105 3.3.7 Description of the methodology and analysis..............................107 Stage 1: Identification and Elaboration of Narratives......108 Stage 2: Action Orientations, Positionings, and Social Achievements...................................................................109 Stage 3: Masterand Meta-Narratives.............................110 Stage 4: Subjectivity and Counter-Narratives..................112 4 DATA ANALYSIS: FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS..................................114 4.1 Findings....................................................................................................114 4.2 Validity and Generalizability of This Study............................................129 4.3 Limits of the Research.............................................................................132 4.4 Heuristics.................................................................................................134 4.5 Observations and Conclusions.................................................................136 4.5.1 Foreigners and Narratives of Exclusion.......................................137 4.5.2 Territories and Identities..............................................................138 4.5.3 Return: The Dialogue between Agency and Possibilities............142 4.5.4 Final Comments and Reflections on a Postmodern View of Agency.........................................................................................147 APPENDIX A INFORMED CONSENT.....................................................................................153 B FLYER USED TO RECRUIT PARTICIPANTS................................................155 C CONVENTIONS USED IN TRANSCRIBING INTERVIEWS........................156 D EXAMPLE OF THE ANALYSIS OF IVANA’S INTERVIEW........................157 LIST OF REFERENCES.................................................................................................164 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................................................................183 vii


LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1-1 Unprecedented growth in international migration to Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand (1990-2000)...................................................................4 3-1 Percentage of results for the keyword "postmodern*" out of total Psycho-Info entries (years 1988-2005).........................................................................................63 3-2 Steps of the data analysis.......................................................................................107 viii


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy NARRATIVES OF IDENTITY, HOME, AND RETURN OF KOSOVARIAN REFUGEES: STEPS TOWARD A POSTMODERN SENSE OF AGENCY By Marco Gemignani August 2005 Chair: Franz Epting Cochair: Gregory Neimeyer Major Department: Psychology In a world of growing migration and intercultural contacts, postmodern individuals and societies increasingly question pre-established orders and systems of knowledge. This study investigates the narratives that a sample group of seven refugees from Kosovo, currently in the Boston (MA) area, employs to formulate and express their perceptions of identity, home, and return. Drawing upon constructionist, narrative, pragmatic and postmodern epistemologies and philosophies, a narrative-postmodern method of qualitative data inquiry is developed and implemented in the analysis of the participants’ interviews. Narratives are explored according to their roles in creating positions of identity and agency. At the same time, by focusing on the local context of power and knowledge, the relational function of social discourses and metanarratives is analyzed. Metanarratives of opposition and exclusion emerge from the refugees’ storytelling and from the discursive meanings attached to home, return, and identities of refugees and ix


displaced persons (DP). Finally, the study investigates the development by some of the participants of critical counter-narratives that question pre-existing discourses of territoriality and past, present, and future life. This questioning leads, eventually, to narratives and discourses that challenge normalizing reifications of identity and space, which are seen as epistemological criteria rather than ontological statuses. In their critical approach to counter-discourse, participants create their own place and subjectivity as relational processes that transcend the categories of “here vs. there” or “individual vs. socio-cultural”. In such processes, participants achieve new interpretations and possibilities for their sense of agency, empowerment, and therapeutic growth. x


CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Like the tree that can never throw roots into the very soil from which it was uprooted (From the film “Refugee”: Dutta, 2000) The purpose of this dissertation is to explore and provide an understanding of the narratives that a sample group of refugees from Kosovo, who are now living in the Boston area, employ to describe themselves, their idea of home, and their possible return to the place from where they originally flew. In order to achieve this goal, this study focuses on how the participants’ narratives define identities and possibilities within the contexts of their lives. In the ongoing process of story-telling, narratives are seen as foundational in identifying, developing, and implementing possibilities. It is here argued that the process of identity construction coincides with that of the telling: therefore, it is impossible to distinguish between the self and the told. This study also explores the influence that narrative identities (Holstein & Gubrium, 2000) may have on the refugees’ sense of agency and, consequently, on their personal and social empowerment, ethics (what they sense they can do) (Appiah, 2005), and positions regarding identity, home, and return. A contextualized and participant-grounded account of the experience of Kosovarian refugees may help professionals to promote mental health, empowerment, and agency (UNHCR, 2001). This dissertation’s exploration of critical aspects of the refugee experience, like identity, home, and return (Camino & Krulfeld, 1994; Mortland, 1998), is expected to inform and promote an effective understanding of refugees’ 1


2 narratives and how, when, and where they are employed for the creation of possibility and action (Parker, 2005) in a relational context. In order to understand narratives, it is important to first set the background of the linguistic interactions against which sentences make sense (Wittgenstein, 1953). This sense is not as much related to the author’s real message as to the positions that the subjectivities that are involved in the research develop in regard to each other. In other words, meanings and functions of narratives are created and employed depending on those experiences, choices, expectations, and relationships that form the cultural background of the specific research. Similar to Derrida’s idea of differance, the ever-changing background defines the “identities” of a research by allowing its bases, perspectives, methods, and agendas to emerge as processes rather than essences or fixed elements. Rather than interpreting backgrounds or contexts as composed of discrete variables that need to be discovered, defined, and analyzed, constructionist (Gergen, 1985; Watzlawick, 1984), pragmatist (Hollinger & Depew, 1995; Rorty, 1999), and post-structuralist (Derrida, 1976) epistemologies approach and interpret contexts as defined by contrasts. It follows that definitions are perspectives, temporary and relative pictures of the process of negotiating between positions (e.g., the I and the non-I) (Harr & Langenhove, 1999). These positions recursively inform and are informed by the system of relations, assumptions, and narration that create dynamic, relational contexts. Positions, contexts, and research topics are processes instead than stable, predetermined, and dictionary-like definitions; using Foucault expression, they are documents instead of monuments (Foucault, 1972).


3 Therefore, the first step into this dissertation’s journey is to understand the contexts in which stories and discourses take place and collaborate toward the creation of the social relations, subjectivities, and positions that allow the construction of knowledge and reality. In the complex postmodern world of positions in lieu of truths, “narrative discourse, like other discourses, is thus of the world not about it” (Daiute & Lightfoot, 2004, p. xi). 1.1 The Contexts of the Research Individuals and groups have always moved to other lands in search of safety, better conditions of life, or to escape catastrophic scenarios. However, never before in human history have voluntary and forced intercultural contacts been as numerous as in the past two decades (Papadopulos, 2002; Ward, Bochner, Furnham, 2001). In 2000, the International Organization for Migration estimated that there are about 150 million migrants worldwide, 30 million more than 10 years ago (BBC, 2000, November 2). Data from the United Nations Development Program (Figure 1-1: UNDP, 2004, p. 100), the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2005) provide further evidence of the unprecedented number of cultural movements and migrations that characterizes our era.


4 Figure 1-1. Unprecedented growth in international migration to Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, but refugee remain a small proportion (1990-2000). In psychology and psychotherapy, intercultural contacts as well as reflexive and ground-breaking movements such as feminism, constructivism, multiculturalism, and critical psychology have significantly contributed to the deconstruction and challenge of some core assumptions in the field, especially in relation to epistemologies and methods (Gergen, 2001; Kvale, 1992, 2003). Those movements have succeeded in promoting reflexivity and awareness of the relational and political nature of knowledge, underscoring the creative and “normalizing” roles of languages, cultural agendas, and power structures (Cushman, 1995; Foucault, 1982/1984; hooks, 1984; Lyotard, 1979/1984; Watzlawick, 1984). Through the ongoing process of deconstructing and partially re-synthesizing knowledge with “a certain degree of humility” (Gergen, 2001, p. 809) and reflexive awareness, the postmodern turn in psychology has led to critical


5 interpretations of, among others, diagnostic categories (Fee, 2000), gender roles (M. Gergen, 1992, 2001), feminist and multicultural experiences (Kitzinger & Wilkinson, 2003; Uba, 2002), qualitative research methods (Alvesson & Skldberg, 2000; Denzin & Lincoln, 2005), and psychotherapy (Anderson, 1997; Cushman, 1995). Considering the complexity of globalization within local milieus, the present dissertation wants to contribute to the innovative challenges of postmodernism in psychology. The theoretical orientation and topic of this research create, in fact, a network of research contexts that is complex and global while, at the same time, focusing on the specific experiences of a precise target group and setting: refugees from Kosovo in the Boston area. With no aspirations to depict final truths, the multidisciplinary and socially-active character of this study underscores the relational focus of postmodern science, which considers the constant and critical dialogue among parties as the only possibility of doing science (Gergen, 2001). By the same token, in counseling, critical attempts to define the field moved in the nineties from focusing on epistemology and relativism to underscoring therapy’s political and social roles (Cushman, 1995), positions (Harr & Moghaddam, 2004), and agendas (Gergen, 1991; Hoyt, 1996). Therefore, this research endorses a constructivist, narrative, and postmodern approach to knowledge while committing to social justice, pragmatism, and reflexive interpretations of scientific methods. The network of contexts and agendas of the subjectivities that are directly and indirectly involved in this research will be analyzed throughout this manuscript. My hope is that an understanding of how narratives are employed and effect change in the participants’ lives will emerge as a result of the


6 journey that the reader is about to take in the area of narrative, interpretations, possibilities, and identities. 1.1.1 The Importance of Context When psychology is interested in meanings, experiences, and interactions, and when it is ecological and applied, then the context within which processes, events, or relations happen needs to be addressed (Bruner, 1986, 1990; Mahoney, 1995). In the history of psychology, the focus on context was initially a reaction to the universal and positivist premises of psychoanalysis, behaviorism, experimental, and physiological psychology. However, with the internal developments of psychoanalysis, the growth of certain phenomenological, humanistic, and cognitive interpretations, the increased attention to cultural diversity, and the rise of constructivist and postmodern psychologies, the focus on contexts, including culture and relationships, has come to the forefront in psychology. The context of the refugee experience is at once personal, social, and political: the processes of leaving one’s own region and home, settling in a refugee camp and/or host country, and, at times, returning to a deeply-changed and “unfamiliar” home country, transcend individual agency and are to be understood within the broad context of socio-cultural interpretations, relational values and agendas, power games, socio-economic forces, liberty and access restrictions, and ethnic discrimination. The sense of oneness or the self-concept of people cannot be isolated from the social and political environments that transform external events into experiences of life (Shotter & Gergen, 1989). Identities develop parallel to the access to possibilities and empowerment, the sense of agency and participation, the perceptions of time and space that relationally define the individual (Anderson, 1997).


7 From a postmodern perspective, each term believed to influence identity is a construction, which is created and employed within specific metanarratives, relations, and stories. This view does not mean to discount personal experiences or social dynamics (like discrimination, torture, poverty, trauma, etc.), but it underscores the flexible and creative power of interpretations. Constructions, including those of identity, take place and meaning within linguistic and discursive relations in which people directly or indirectly communicate. Similarly, refugees find themselves in situations in which they need to reconstruct themselves in a space that is both new and old at the same time: it is a new location, society, and culture, which requires newcomers to establish new relations. However, at the same time those relations will be seen and molded through the “old” eyes, standards, and aspirations of what used to be “home” and had to be left dramatically. “New-ness” and “old-ness” are constructions that are formulated and employed with specific social relations. For instance, memories of home could be seen as related to internal nostalgia for a place that is now gone. On the other hand, rather than reducing such a rich concept as home to an internal matter of emotions and geographical distance, memories of home could be seen as network of constructions, relations, and systems that used to have meaning in the context of those constructions, relations, and systems that created (or invented) the home country. As Hammond writes: Refugees may be understood as people who maximize the social, cultural and economic opportunities available to them while in exile. They learn skills, adopt new vocations, and develop new social frameworks. These influences become components in evolving senses of individual and collective identity, vis--vis new world views which are neither entirely like nor entirely unlike the identities and world views that people held prior to fleeing from their country of origin. (Hammond, 1998, p. 233)


8 Similar to immigrants, refugees bring knowledge, expertise, and wisdom from their homelands. They bring standards, values, and ideals that are embedded in the context of their home country and that, at the same time, are continuously created, narrated, or silenced in the receiving milieu. Finally, it is important to bear in mind that contexts are flexible rather than fixed and open rather than closed systems. Therefore, as any open system, they change with the external influences they receive as well as with their own ability to receive, interpret, and integrate information (Hoffman, 1981). 1.1.2 The Context of Kosovo The region of Kosovo has a long-standing history of development as well as occupation and colonization. Since Alexander the Great, through the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Austrian-Hungarian empires, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Nazi occupation, Tito’s Communist Party, and Milosevi’s regime, people from Kosovo have been at the mercy of what contemporary Albanian-Kosovarians would call “foreign populations”. Kosovo has always been a varying mix of Serbian, Muslim-Bosnian, Roma, gypsy (Ashkaelia), and Egyptian ethnicities, which mirror the region’s turbulent history of dominations (United Nations High Commission for Refugees / Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe [UNHCR/OSCE], 2002). During Tito’s regime, Kosovo benefited from great political power: in 1974 it became an autonomous province and, although not a republic in the Federation of Yugoslavia, it achieved equal constitutional status as the other seven units of the federation. Nonetheless, being officially part of the Republic of Serbia, Kosovo’s attempts to gain independence under Tito and, after his death in 1980, under Milosevi, found strong opposition in Belgrade. In 1989, following massive demonstrations for national liberation in Kosovo, Milosevi responded with abolishing Kosovo’s autonomy.


9 In 1990, with the collapse of the communist block in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the Yugoslavian republics of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia declared independence and, with the exception of Slovenia, they began an armed and sanguinary conflict with the Serbs in 1991. In 1995, the leaders of the Republics of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina signed the Dayton Peace Accord. At the beginning of the 1990’s, with the war spreading in the Balkans, Kosovo was virtually divided between the Serbian and the Albanian populations. The former followed Belgrade’s political authority, whereas the latter opposed Milosevi and was indirectly ruled by a “shadow cabinet”: the Parliament of the Republic of Kosovo. Following the end of the Balkans War, Kosovarian-Serbs felt abandoned by Belgrade, and radical political activists of both ethnicities took advantage of the massive trafficking of weapons from Croatia and Bosnia to arm themselves. It did not take long for the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to enter into a campaign of terrorism and attacks on Serbs, especially policemen and border guards, in order to radicalize the situation. The KLA succeeded in its attempt to force Milosevi to send more police and military forces, which brutally repressed and killed Kosovarian-Albanians. In 1998, the European Union and the United States started to become more concerned as news about the civil war and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo reached the Western countries. A conference was held in Rambouillet, France, in mid-February to negotiate an end to the civil war. As the settlement seriously undermined Yugoslavia’s authority over Kosovo, Belgrade representatives feared that the KLA would have continued its fight for Kosovo’s independence. Therefore, they did not sign the agreement. After a series of ultimatums and negotiation attempts failed, NATO bombed Serbian infrastructures and Belgrade’s


10 centers of political power in March 1999. After 73 days of air strikes, Yugoslavia and NATO signed an accord, which, although quite similar to the original Rambouillet agreement, kept Serbia’s official sovereignty over Kosovo. Since June 1999, Kosovo has been under the direct administration of the United Nation Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the Kosovo Peace Implementation Force (KFOR). Nowadays, Kosovo’s international status is still uncertain: the Albanian ethnicity supports Kosovo’s political independence from the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro, which, instead, opposes any move in that direction. Internationally, the diplomatic situation is complex and stuck. Historical power games and alliances team up with current political designs of international equilibriums and military control. In addition, many nation-states fear that the political victory of ethnic minorities, obtained through military rebellion against the dominant power (in this case, the fights for Kosovarian-Albanians’ cause and independence), may create a dangerous precedent for their own internal conflicts. Economic stagnation remains a serious concern: the lack of foreign investments, poverty, high rates of crime, unemployment, and emigration contribute to the lack of significant socio-economic development. The current socio-economic difficulties are also worsened by the progressive decrease in the number of international humanitarian missions and field offices (World Bank, 2004). 1.1.3 The Socio-Political Context of Kosovarian Refugees in the U.S. The admission of refugees in the United States is regulated by the Refugee Act of 1980. Typically, refugees from Kosovo came to the USA in 1999 or 2000 after having spent a period of time (usually between 2 and 5 months) in refugee camps in Macedonia or Germany, Austria, Denmark, and the Scandinavian countries. Once the emergency and primary needs of displaced individuals were taken care of, and after a thorough


11 background checking and “psychological testing” to assess intellectual skills and rule out severe psychiatric pathologies, refugees and asylum seekers could volunteer to be temporarily hosted in countries such as Canada, the USA, UK, and Turkey. People who chose to come to the USA were flown into one of the “hospitality camps,” which, for most of the Boston refugees, were located on the East coast. After approximately one month, they were offered the possibility to move somewhere else in the USA, mainly depending on the job market for their expertise areas or on the presence of relatives in the area. The 1980 Refugee Act regulates the work possibilities and therefore the economic access and growth of refugees in the United States. Religion is likely to be a significant aspect of the Kosovarian refugees’ context of life in the United States. Albanians are mainly Muslim and, especially in the post-September 11th political milieu, American and migrant Muslims have reportedly experienced social isolation and discrimination in their everyday life (Livengood & Stodolska, 2004; Gerges, 2003; Moradi & Hasan, 2004). 1.1.4 The Socio-Political Context of Kosovarian Asylum Seekers in the U.S. Since one of the participants described herself as being an asylum seeker before being a refugee, I decided to include a section on this specific population. On the one hand, asylum seekers’ experiences are similar to those of refugees and, internationally, refugees are usually granted the immigration status of asylum seekers. On the other hand, asylum seekers may escape from situations of persecution and violence that are not always recognized internationally because of diplomatic arguments or to elude conflicts with national political institutions. For instance, individuals who seek asylum to avoid cultural practices or discriminations that go against the Global Declaration of Human Rights (like forced female circumcision in certain Central African countries or life


12 endangering persecution of gay people) may not be granted asylum in nations with strong religious feelings. In the United States, one unique struggle for asylum seekers is that they need to prove their case individually in front of immigration officers, who “regularly challenge the histories of persecution. The process of assessing asylum claims is often adversarial, with asylum seekers becoming distressed and at times incoherent during the proceedings” (Silove, 2004, p. 19), with the result of putting their credibility at stake. Hence, asylum granting is influenced by political dynamics both at the level of the local Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and at the level of international relationships and diplomacy. Eventual decisions are often based more on “politically motivated attitudes of immigration officials” (Silove, 2004, p. 19) than on genuine experiences of persecutions, therefore contributing to the development of a sense of helplessness and disempowerment in asylum seekers (Shuman & Bohmer, 2004). 1.1.5 Serbian-Kosovarian Displaced Individuals Six years after the NATO bombing campaign of Serb military and political targets in relation to Milosevi’s ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, more than half of the Kosovarian Serb (K/S) population who flew from Kosovo during the bombing is still displaced in the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro. Nowadays, over 210,000 Kosovar Serbs are living outside of Kosovo. Although the Rambouillet agreement1 clearly granted the right to the 1 “The Parties recognize that all persons have the right to return to their homes. Appropriate authorities shall take all measures necessary to facilitate the safe return of persons, including issuing necessary documents. All persons shall have the right to reoccupy their real property, assert their occupancy rights in state-owned property, and recover their other property and personal possessions. The Parties shall take all measures necessary to readmit returning persons to Kosovo.” (Article 2, point 3 of the Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo –February 23, 1999). Available at or


13 safe return of all persons, Kosovo has experienced a constant outflow of Serbs from the region. The recent (March 2004) clashes and killings between the majority ethnic Albanian population and the Serb minority have just worsened the trend, threatening even more the UN goal of creating a multi-ethnic Kosovo. As I mentioned above, the return rate of Serb displaced individuals is contrasted by the strong incidence of Serb emigration from Kosovo. Fleeing from Kosovo and resettling in the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro is a dramatic process that often entails economic, social, and psychological struggles. In the difficult economic and social climate of Serbia, Displaced Persons (DP2) often live in precarious conditions. As it will described in chapter 2, they feel and are perceived as being “neither here nor there,” with one foot in Serbia and the other one in Kosovo. DP, especially those of Serb ethnicity, often suffer from discrimination in the host areas as well as back in Kosovo. The idea of “home” itself is dramatically reconfigured, creating an enduring and powerless feeling of not-belonging that influences DP’ sense of agency, pro-activity, and political assertiveness (Pipher, 2002). On the other hand, the process of DP’ return to Kosovo faces some practical challenges about safety and discrimination, about freedom and access, and about economic wellbeing and development of returning and settling communities. As I stated previously, Kosovo is officially part of the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro, but it is under the administration of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) with no direct governmental role from Belgrade. Because of this, uprooted 2 In this paper, the expression Displaced Person, Persons, or People (DP) refers only to Kosovarian-Serbs who fled from Kosovo and are now in the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro. The expression “DP” was preferred to common Internally Displaced Person or People (IDP) or refugee for their political connotations.


14 Kosovarians who flew to Serbia cannot be labeled “refugees.” Instead, they are identified as Internally Displaced Individuals (IDP). This labeling issue directly affects the life of displaced individuals in the former Yugoslavia. In fact, when it comes to the humanitarian assistance of refugees, the IDP status does not entail the same level of care and support from international governmental organizations as the refugee status would. 1.1.6 The Context of the Author During the summer of 2003, the University of Florida and the Coca-Cola Foundation awarded me a World Citizen Fellowship, which entailed my living in Belgrade and other areas of the former Yugoslavia for a period of 3 months, in order to work as a mental health counselor for refugees and to assess their needs. The majority of the uprooted individuals I met came from areas involved in the 1991-1995 Balkans War; just a few clients in Belgrade and Ni were DP from Kosovo. In 2003, Belgrade was still suffering the dramatic socio-economic consequences of Milosevi’s regime, the Balkans War, and NATO bombing. During and in the aftermath of the wars that affected the former Yugoslavia, people who belonged to or identified with the Serb ethnicity found shelter in Serbia, mostly in its capital and border cities of the South. At the time of my sojourn in Serbia, this migratory movement out of Kosovo was a relatively impelling social issue: Kosovarian-Serb civilians were moving to Belgrade to improve their socio-economic conditions as well as to avoid Kosovarian-Albanian retaliations and reprisals. The international press, often too concerned in building up a negative image of Serbia in preparation for the Hague International Trial, barely reported on this dramatic social issue. As a consequence of the little international coverage, local political administrations of the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro did not receive significant international support to deal with DP. The shelters that were


15 finally becoming vacant from the refugees of the 1991-1995 war were full again with individuals from Kosovo. In the summer of 2003, radical exponents of the extreme right had just killed the elected Prime Minister and the economic infrastructure was struggling to recover from the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia. The country was not ready to face the internal emergency of DP from Kosovo and the fact that this issue was “internal” did not attract major humanitarian assistance to the region (see section on Definition of Refugee in chapter 2). The NGOs that were already in the field, like the one in which I worked, established intervention programs, but their work was heavily limited by the lack of international resources and supports. Through my conversations and collaborations with clients, members of humanitarian organizations, local mental health therapists, social scientists, and politicians in the ex-Yugoslavia, it became clear to me that “refugee issues” required a very multidisciplinary approach, including an understanding that transcended the fixed and often politicized boundaries of traditional academic disciplines. My clinical work at a local counseling center focused on addressing concerns that were not just psychological: experiences of trauma and discrimination, personal and ethnic identities, memories and meanings of home, social immobility, as well as economic development, political access, educational programs, social advocacy, human rights, and legal protection. Evidently those concerns could not be related just to internal or psychological dilemmas. For instance, the lack of economic development, social access, and the sense of being stuck were linked to the very political and social context of my clients. At the same time in which people addressed their cultural identities, personal losses, and traumatic experiences, the national and international political debate on the “refugee issue” was


16 what could create the conditions for their future wellbeing. In this complex picture, it was strikingly common among refugees to feel powerless while waiting for things to get better. Clients as well often felt helpless: their sense of personal agency was seriously challenged and silenced, frequently leading to painful experiences of psychological distress. For DP, counseling was the chance to explore possibilities and build bridges between their past, present, and future experiences and interpretations. Nevertheless, wider questions emerged in regard to the link between the political and relational contexts in which DP lived, their views of home and return (which influence the clients’ past, present, and future), and the general but crucial sense of personal agency. In particular, the latter stands out as a value of the researcher that openly informs the study. In the chapter on method, I will explore more extensively the influence of the researcher’s personal values, biases, and agenda in the process of data collection and analysis. 1.2 A Short Introduction to the Research Goals from a Narrative-Postmodern Perspective 1.2.1 Reinterpreting Expectations from a Position of Shared Responsibility and Post-Structuralism. Questions about narratives are as important in their inquiring side as in their responsive power. As Kelly said (1955), a question is an action in the world: it is a way to gain knowledge, promote interpretations, and organize life experiences. As the outcome of an action may be important but not crucial to understand the experience of “acting”, a question may be very significant and impacting even when it does not find an answer. Answers or outcomes, like research goals, are linked to social constructions and relations that shape the contexts of the research and its ability to achieve its expected goals.


17 From a postmodern perspective, the success in answering the research questions does not depend just on the study as it is presented by the author, but also on the ability of readers or committee members to creatively engage in the process of building the text and taking it to action (Ricouer, 1991). Paraphrasing Paul Valri, the text is like an instrument that everybody can use in relation to her/his possibilities: it is not certain that the writer can use it better than others can (Valri, 1957, p. 1507. Cited in Glasersfeld, 1983). Likewise, the famous post-structuralist metaphor of the “dead author” (Foucault, 1987) emphasizes the relational and language-embedded character of the text and the lack of epistemological relevance of the author’s genuine or original message. Nonetheless, it is usually taken-for-granted that the author writes in order to provide a message to the reader. Although it is important to grasp the speaker’s messages and contexts (e.g., social and cultural backgrounds), postmodernism assumes that these messages cannot be merely transmitted. Instead, they are always transformed by the reader’s relations with text and language. By the same token, perfect translations do not exist: knowledge and meanings are always changed and added to the original piece (Glasersfeld, 1983). Similar to artistic reproductions or therapeutic paraphrasing, the narrative researcher works as an interpreter who informs the audience about texts, relational contexts, and possible interpretations (Riessman, 2002b). In therapy, counselors collaborate with clients in the expression, creation, and development of stories and narratives about their lives: therapists “assist clients in ‘renarrating’ these stories for the purposes of healing” (Hansen, 2004, p. 134). Like re-narrations, research goals and results are opportunities for conversations (McNamee, 1996, p. 132) and more questions, rather than dogmatic conclusions.


18 The main goal of this research is to pragmatically interpret the lives of others: using Riessman’s analogy with the interpreter, I translate Kosovarian refugees’ narratives on identity, home, and return in order to answer the research question: “How do people who consider themselves Kosovarian refugees construct their narrative identities and how do they employ those narratives to inform their sense of self-agency, home, and return?” The research question will be illustrated on section 3.1 of the chapter on Method. The positions and agendas that inform my specific translations are addressed in the sections on the context of the author (1.1.6) and validity (3.3.6). 1.2.2 Introducing the Research Goals: Exploring Narratives and Discourses about Identity, Home, and Return. In scenarios of deprivation, victimization, and displacement, refugees tend to hold to what was previously important and pleasant to them, to the memories that are able to offer some comfort and familiarity. Discourses on home and return become central, even if not always publicly shared, topics of dialogue and hope, which often have a key role in the reconstruction of lives, meanings, and identities of refugees (Camino & Krulfeld, 1994; Mortland, 1998). The question and anticipation of when – if ever – displaced individuals will return home is indeed among the most poignant and meaningful concerns for border crossers. It is not just nostalgia: dreams of return and memories of home also serve as motivators toward the future. When I was in the territories of the ex-Yugoslavia in 2003, I was often stunned by the poignant stories of refugees from Bosnia & Herzegovina. Eager to learn from the incredibly dramatic life experiences of those persons, I used to ask what gave women and men, children and the elderly enough strength to go through the physical and emotional pain they suffered. The common answer I received was: “The memory of what it was.”


19 Narratives about the past influence present and future lives of these refugees. Starting from this observation, the present dissertation aspires to explore the narratives about home and return, which, at the same time, are expected to be intertwined with those on identities and agency. The identified narratives on subjectivity will provide the chance to develop an understanding of narratives as social achievements, as combinations of idiosyncrasies of individuals and groups with cultural contexts and discourses. Narratives on selves, home, and return are expected to impact the interviewees’ sense of agency and empowerment, which, in their turn, will influence the social contexts of individuals and groups. In fact, “as we converse with others, both public identity and the private sense of self are being shaped” (Gergen, 1999, p. 176). As the label “refugees” necessarily implies displacement and distance from home, the analyses of key conceptualizations and discourses on return and home are expected to shed light on the emotional, constructive, and developmental aspects of the refugee experience. For instance, the idea that refugees may have thrown away the period of their life in which they were forced out of their homeland creates narratives, positions, and contexts that hinder the development of worth, self-esteem, and empowerment among displaced individuals (UNHCR, 2001). Likewise, the refugee literature is openly and overly biased toward considering the experience of displacement in negative and trauma-related terms. Although this may be the case in most scenarios of forced moving, researchers cannot take this anticipation for granted. For instance, one of the interviewees said that fleeing was one of the best things that happened in his life because, otherwise, he would still be stuck in what he called a “future-less Kosovo”.


20 It is also expected that the approach to psychology of migration adopted and developed in this dissertation will counter the mainstream reduction of border-crossing experiences to discrete variables on acculturation, adjustment, and coping (Berry, 1997; Tilburg & Vigerhoets, 1997). Reductive, modern approaches lay on a crucial epistemic choice: the assumptions that people and personal characteristics can be separated from the socio-cultural context in which persons live (Gergen, 1991). Instead, a narrative and postmodern psychological science emphasizes narratives as local and relational as well as embedded within discourses, political games, and metanarratives (Lyotard, 1979/1984; Gergen, 2001). To sum up, two main foci anticipate this dissertation’s goals and expectations: I am interested in narratives as social accomplishments by which refugees actively constitute themselves through practices of the selves and within contexts and relations. I am interested in exploring the refugees’ narratives on return and home and how these narratives are employed toward developing the senses of identity and agency. 1.2.3 Understanding Empowerment and Agency: Steps Towards a Field Intervention This dissertation is an initial journey into the narrative experiences of refugees from Kosovo. A specific goal for this journey is to explore identities and positions in the contexts of refugees’ lives, in order to achieve an understanding of the narratives employed in questions on “who they are in relations to the other and who the other is in relations to me” (Hermans, 2003, p. 104) or, even better from a postmodern perspective, in what story or stories they are taking part (Sarbin, 2004, p. 235). My role in this journey is to collect, listen, analyze, and understand the interviewees’ voices about themselves and their ideas of home and return. Eventually, this dissertation may provide a better understanding on the importance that the refugees’


21 senses of empowerment and agency have on their life possibilities and re-narrations.This research will likely inform the development and design of a field intervention in which refugees and displaced individuals from Kosovo are going to be helped in they decision-making process on settlement and/or return. With this field goal in mind, I consider the constructions of identity and home to have a critical role in informing refugees about their life ethics and locus of control. To facilitate decisions on return to Kosovo or settlement in the host country of displaced individual is an ambitious and challenging project, which requires the close collaborations of researchers and agents from a number of disciplines. Nonetheless, the topics of this dissertation set the bases for other interventions to emerge relationally. For instance, field projects that aspire to refugees’ or returnees’ involvement in the political life or the development of financial sustainability are likely to acknowledge the participants’ sense of empowerment, control, and possibility for action. In addition, the sense of agency and empowerment develops within the complex network of social relations that shape and allow the life of an individual, a community, or a culture to grow and find a political voice. In this sense, the observations that will come from this dissertation may be helpful to field projects that will emphasize the adaptive and constructive aspects of experiences of forced displacement within a framework of analysis of political discourses and identity narratives. Similar to humanistic and narrative therapies (Bugental, 1987; Rogers, 1951; Goolishian & Anderson, 1987), the goal of this narrative-postmodern dissertation is to create the conditions for the participants’ voice to be heard in order to acknowledge and promote such voice in the participants’ or clients’ relationship with the investigator or therapist (Riessman, 2002b,


22 p. 220; Richert, 2002). This is to say that voices or narratives are a product of the ongoing and local interaction between storytellers and audiences. As a consequence, it is not the goal of the expert to give voice to silenced groups: this approach would reproduce meta-narratives of paternalistic salvation by the person or party with power. Rather, the collaborator engages in an empowering process with the teller so that he or she will feel safe, confident, and “heard” enough as to formulate narratives that were previously unexpressed.


CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE 2.1 Refugees and Displaced Population (DP) 2.1.1 The Difficult Definition of “Refugee”: From the Etymological to the Political. Refugees are “people who have fled their country because of a well founded fear of persecution for reasons of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group and who cannot or do not want to return” (UNDP, 2004, p. 274). This definition by the United Nation Development Programme introduces some of the main terms and concepts that identify and inform this study and its most basic goal of providing a better understanding of the refugees’ experience from a qualitative and narrative-postmodern view. In virtue of being a definition about persons, it talks about identity, as experienced by the individuals who receive the label of refugees and by others who recognize them. When talking about fleeing, migrating, or traveling, the concepts of home and return are implied and, most often, expected because these verbs assume the existence of a starting point of departure. One of the ongoing, underlying topics in refugee studies is the highly political process of defining, labeling, and expecting. This process carries immediate and dramatic consequences in the life of refugees. For instance, broader definitions of the term “refugee” include among the reasons for fleeing natural disasters, poverty, and hopelessness, in the sense of lack of a fulfilling-enough future. However, when fleeing happens for “improvement” reasons, rather than for escaping from violence, the term “humanitarian migrant” is used. The distinction between refugees’ race, religion, 23


24 nationality, or political opinion on the one hand, and, on the other hand, migrants’ desire for economic or social improvement (including, for instance, escaping from famine or natural disaster) is often difficult to make. Needless to say, differentiating refugees from humanitarian migrants implies political values and agendas. Similarly, the above-quoted UNDP definition of refugees needs to be followed by a number of political choices, starting with the interpretations of words such as “country,” “well founded,” and “social group.” Besides the uncertainty related to political and ideological definitions of refugee, what is common in the experience of forced migration is that individuals had to give up the “luxury” of staying in their home country in order to avoid consequences that they expect to be worse than those related to fleeing or settling somewhere else. In other words, they had to leave in order to keep or gain minimum standards of life, including the very condition of being alive. The 1951 Geneva Convention of the United Nations (UN) defined refugee as a person who owning to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of [her] former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it (United Nations, 1951). As any definitions, also the above one requires a certain degree of flexibility in order to be broadened when it comes to its implications and to actual work in the field or in research. For instance, the UN definition allows no room for people who had to leave their homes for reasons like natural disasters or whose displacement is internal to their country – Internally Displaced People (IDP). Arguably, the most common criterion used


25 to classify refugees is that of “forced migration to accessible geographical locations that provide safer havens and more adequate resources” (Ward, Bochner, & Furnham, 2001, p. 221). To describe refugees as victims of some force is a delicate and controversial pattern: it implies that, first of all, forces are external to the individuals and that, second, people may not have options other than fleeing. In other words, people become refugees because some external push-factors oblige individuals to move involuntarily. This understanding of refugees is probably appropriate in most cases in which abuse is included, such as wars, discriminations, and forced social or cultural behaviors. However, it does not include situations in which persons feel that they have to move because, otherwise, their life would not be worth living or their future will not be adequate or safe. For instance, many Albanians left their country after the 1992 civil war terminated. They were not directly forced them to leave, but had they stayed, they would have had to deal with a country in political chaos, poverty, and filled with social hate. Growth and development would have come, but surely not immediately. Nevertheless, because the civil war was over, most countries did not accept Albanians as refugees. They had to file immigrant applications, losing as a consequence the social, economic, and assistance befits of being refugees. Did these people have the choice of remaining in their home country? The answer to this question depends on personal and social values and criteria to describe minimum life quality and “well founded fear.” Unless we consider the extreme circumstance in which death would have been a very likely consequence of not fleeing, all other situations require a notable degree of political will and criteria to determine who can be called “refugee.” Inevitably, those political acts have an influence


26 on the social constructions of refugees, including their cultural adjustment, access level, freedom, possibilities, and identities in the host country. 2.1.2 Mental Health and Psychological Concerns of Refugees and DP: Neither Here Nor There. The distinction between psychological concerns of refugees and DP is a source of debate in the literature (Velath, 2003). As previously described, such distinction is political in its nature and has some clear and important implications for the level of services and care that individuals may be eligible to receive. Nonetheless, the mental health issues that are usually described in the literature about these two populations are strikingly similar (Papadopoulos, 2002; Wilson & Droek, 2004). For this reason, the present literature review will make a unique presentation of the psychological concerns of refugees and DP. The reader is however invited to keep in mind that the socio-political context of life may be quite different for the two populations. The first thing to take into consideration when addressing the experience of refugees is that they always come from a situation in which they felt powerless, without any feasible choice except to leave their homes. This kind of “learned helplessness” (Seligman, 1975) translates into feelings of hopelessness and passivity for refugees: no matter what, they fatalistically believe that life is unpredictable and uncontrollable (Nicassio, 1985). Not surprisingly, therefore, depression is the most common diagnosis for refugees and DP, followed by a very high incidence of PTSD. As an example, Ekblad (1993) claims that 68 per cent of the children from the former Yugoslavia in refugee camps in Sweden were clinically depressed, 62 per cent presented somatic symptoms, and 59 per cent experienced sleeping problems. Even though consistently high, depression and PTSD rates vary significantly among cultures (Ward, Bochner, &


27 Furnham, 2001) and political settings (Rosner, 2003) as well as along dimensions such as cultural distance between home and host country (Babiker, Cox, & Miller, 1980), demographics of the population, violence of trauma, repetition of traumatic episodes, and presence of stressful premigration experiences (Farias, 1991). In spite of these important differences among contexts, almost all systematic studies on PTSD and depression in refugee populations reported “rates of these disorders that far exceed those found in nonwar-affected communities of the West” (Silove, 2004, p. 19). Other common psychological experiences are related to the idea of “cultural bereavement” (Eisenbruch, 1991), which includes, but is not limited to, “persistent intrusion of past images into daily life, feelings of guilt over abandonment of culture and homeland, and mourning over the loss of social structures, identity, and values” (Ward, Bochner, & Furnham, 2001, p. 228). Refugees and DP are often described as living in a sort of limbo situation, a “neither here nor there” (UNOCHA, 2002, p. 15; IAN, 2001) between the hosting society in which they do not fully integrate and the poignant memories of a life and homeland to which that they are unable or feel unable to return. This sense of uncertainty about belonging and development is frequently cited in the scientific literature on the topic, which assumes that refugees are stuck along dimensions of space (homeland or host country) and time (past, present, or future). Such assumptions imply at least two master discourses or metanarratives that are common in the literature. First, if refugees were able to get themselves out of the dilemma by choosing either one of the two extremes of each dimension, then their psychological wellbeing would increase significantly. The second assumption is epistemological: it takes for granted that human experience and practice


28 can be discerned along dimensions of place and time. This assumption will be discussed in the literature review of the idea of “home” and territoriality. 2.1.3 Critics of the Use of DSM Categories for Refugees In 1991, Eisenbruch developed the concept of “cultural bereavement” to make up for some of the limitations of the psychiatric taxonomy on refugee. In doing this, he joins a number of other scholars in the field who are critical of the unmediated application of Western diagnostic criteria for the evaluation of individuals from non-Western backgrounds (Mollica, 1989; Rosner, 2003; Summerfield, 1999). This restricted group of mental health professionals criticizes the universalistic aspirations of rich, Western, and White standards of psychiatric diagnosis (APA, 2002), which do not acknowledge or employ the critical roles of culture and social constructions in the expression and experience of trauma. Critical authors suggest the inclusion of indigenous cultural practices that belong to the refugee communities (Mollica & McDonald, 2002). In addition, those practices would have a direct effect on fostering and promoting the development of a sense of belonging and cultural identity among members of the same community, therefore contrasting the social isolation and marginalization that is common in temporary settlement solutions for refugees (Van Der Veer, 1998). Scholars have also criticized the political implications of generalizing the attributes of psychological disorders to entire populations. Such generalization is at the basis of the social expectation that refugees present massive incidence of PTSD, depression, and generalized anxiety disorder. Hosting countries may refrain from accepting large numbers of refugees because of the excessive cost that it would impose on national resources (Silove & Ekblad, 2002). The PTSD category has now become the psychological consequence of war (Summerfield, 1999). The overuse of this psychiatric


29 disorder may partially be understood in the light of the strong impression it makes on public and private donors, who are more likely to support field projects that are backed up by Western standards of assessment, including DSM-based psychiatric diagnosis and treatment (Rosner , 2003). In emergency contexts, “agencies may feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to act and may eschew critical analysis in favor of a pragmatism that proliferate, and adds credence, to bio-medical taxonomies” (Watters, 2001, p. 1710. Italics in the original). Rosner (2003, pp. 3-4) identifies other critical assumptions and implications concerning the application of Western psychiatric criteria and the “culture” that surrounds them. She points out that (a) besides its attempts to do otherwise, the DSM-IV embraces clear Western ontological assumptions “such as mind-body dualism, which are not as appropriate for other cultures but which have profound implications for clinical psychology and psychiatry,” (b) diagnostic criteria, categories, and methods are expected to be applicable universally; (c) Western psychiatry and general medicine assume that diagnostic symptoms are present across different cultures. Such aspiration to universality implies that the related diagnosis is “the most appropriate of all imaginable categories in each of those cultures. This presumption is usually referred to as the ‘category fallacy’ (Kleinman, 1988),” (d) finally, PTSD has been criticized as a convenient medical response to the consequences of political choices (Bracken, Giller, & Summerfield, 1995; Summerfield, 1999). In addition to the above criticism, Rosner also notes that the data that supports the PTSD epidemiology is mostly based on U.S. cultural contexts and researches. This is especially concerning in light of the fact that the vast majority of PTSD classifications in


30 emergency contexts happens in country of the South world (Rosner, 2003). At the same time, until 1996, 64% of 135 studies on PTSD were carried out in the United States, and only 6% were conducted in developing countries (DeGirolamo & McFarlane, 1996). 2.1.4 Beyond the Individualistic Focus I already mentioned that there is a relatively new tendency by some scholars to invite professionals in the field to give voice to local healing approaches, instead of imposing the “superior” knowledge of Western medicine. Even if noteworthy indeed, this attempt often results in a casual interest, rather than serious consideration of folk medicine and psychology. In my opinion, a radical approach that is potentially easier to accept for the Western-minded is the inclusion of broader realms of experience in the psychological care of refugees. For instance, including political conversations, boosting administrative participation, and addressing socio-economic issues that typically transcend the boundaries of traditional counseling would bring therapists much closer to the life experience of refugees (Watters, 2001). In many cultures, for instance, it would be unimaginable to address psychological concerns without involving spiritual beliefs, social needs, prospectives of economic development, or legal counsels. I am not suggesting that psychologist should become spiritual leaders or lawyers. Instead, I sympathize with those scholars who, in their normal practice, promote close collaborations with other experts and advocate for clients. As Rosner states “it is intuitively clear that the amount of safety in a society, war in neighboring countries, economic hardships, and many other variables have an effect on psychological distress and possibly on psychopathology” (2003, p. 4). For instance, in a Serbian national survey of the well-being of DP, 16.5% of respondents complained about the “numerous administrative obstacles in enrolling children to new schools, while 2.6% stated that


31 children were humiliated in various ways, as with attempts, for example, to segregate children displaced from Kosovo into separate classes” (UNOCHA, 2002, 26 April, p. 13). When social limitations have the “cumulative effect of eroding the DP’ right to freedom of movement and their full enjoyment of economic social and cultural rights” (UNHCR, 2003, p. 5), it is hard to imagine that such restrictions (and the cultural discourses at their bases) have no influence on the psychological health of the displaced population. Beristain and Don represent the poignant intertwining of the personal and the socio-political in the life of refugees: The traumatic experiences of persecution, torture or killings generate feelings of hatred, revealing an element of reactive vindictiveness and a longing for justice which is for the most part entirely legitimate. Hatred is also used as a political weapon, often under the pretext of a supposed need for security. Under conditions of political repression, violence is used to provoke terror. Whilst the violence itself brings about the physical elimination of the people that it targets directly, its capacity to terrify tends to paralyze all those who identify in some way with the victims. Behind the apparent senselessness of repression lies a clear rationale – to ensure that the threat it poses might be manifest to all sections of the opposition. To avoid placing themselves in danger, people often adopt an attitude of silence and passivity even when witness to events to which they object. This leads to greater conformism and can provoke identity crises. (Beristain & Don, 1998, p. 20) 2.1.5 Some Common Assumptions on the Refugee Experience and the Concept of “Home” in Discourses of Return and Cultural Integration. Hammond (1998) points out the botanical metaphors used to describe the experience of displacement of uprooted populations. “Once returnees are back in their native countries, their roots will be reestablished. Like a seedlings replanted in the earth, they will grow and thrive with a minimum of maintenance and attention” (ibid., p. 233; italics added). This discursive style creates a solid tie between the person and his or her home, with the important result of excluding, in this territorialization of identity, the possibility of stable settlement in the host environment (Malkki, 1992). In other words, as also the opening citation of this dissertation says (see page 1), either the plant grows in its


32 natural habits or it dies. This discourse and its goals may easily be reflected in the level of socio-economic opportunity of development and political power given to DP and refugees. As seen above, the refugee and DP situation is usually depicted in terms of either-or, with an implicit assumption about the quality of life that is expected to improve with return and about the negativity of being displaced, as if “refugees represent ‘matter out of place’.... that should put back into that place” (Hammond, 1998, p. 228). Often, the experience of exile is assumed to be a no-life, as can be seen from the following statement from a report on the protection of the Kosovarian refugees and returnees: “The limbo of exile must give way to a permanent solution which allows refugees to rebuild their lives” (Human Rights First, June 1999). It is therefore assumed that people in exile are not living. However, if we want to seriously give a viable chance to integration and if we consider that personal and communal development happens also during displacement, then we may want to challenge the belief that life in exile is a sort of unhistorical and de-contextualized non-living, a parenthesis within a supposedly real or proper life at home, which can only be regained by return. In addition, return may not be possible or even desirable, neither for the DP or refugee population nor for the communities already present in area of potential return. In Kosovo, “the return of refugees and [Serb] DP [has been] impeded by security concerns, the limited freedom of movement of minority populations in Kosovo, widespread discrimination, poor economic prospects, and unemployment” (UNHCR, 2002, p. 378-379). This interpretation of displacement as a stage of potential development instead of a passive digression from life is parallel to another common assumption that is crucial to


33 the potential return of displaced people: returning home does not mean that life restarts from where it was supposedly interrupted, moving backwards in time. More than a return to the past, repatriation is likely to mean a new beginning. The Kosovo of the Milosevic era is very different from the present Kosovo. For example, just in terms of demography, the data from the 1990 census show that Serbs were approximately one fifth of the Kosovo population, while nowadays they represent less than 5% and they are mainly concentrated in the north part of Kosovo. The political agenda of the interim government of Kosovo clearly focuses on refugees’ and DP’s repatriation. New social, economic, and political parties, relations, and representations have to be rebuilt, with the hope of entailing an improvement in the DP’ living conditions (UNMIK, 2004). Such improvement may foster unification and re-creation of collaborative, cultural kinship as well as development of the local economy and infrastructures in Kosovo. In this sense, repatriation may be an occasion for growth, which is not separated from developments and relations that occurred during exile. 2.2 Home The concept of home is multidisciplinary and, in general, its serves the purpose of identifying a space or a place in which people relate to one another, especially family members (Mallet, 2004). One of the simplest meanings of home is that of a physical space in which people, manly family members, live and interact for a significant and relatively consistent length of time (Cooper, 1976). People direct efforts and resources toward transforming a house into a home. The concept of home better expresses people’s endeavor to develop habits and rituals, which Sigmon & Whitcom (2002) described as the basis of emotional attachments and life experiences. In this process of transforming a


34 place into a home, the emotional attachment to significant relations promotes a sense of belonging and identity (Sarup, 1994). Shotter (1996) underscores the geographical aspect of home as a location and a space in which cultural ties and kinship contribute to the creation of a shared sense of community and belonging. Such place of social interactions has a clear influence on the formation of personal identities that surrounds one’s home (Saunders & Williams, 1988; Somerville, 1989). In contrast to such focus on social and relational aspects of home, Drevdahl (2002) depicts it as a private sphere, separated from the public space and in where people can feel protected from outside rules and unexpected changes. In this view, home is the place of security and safety (Dovey, 1985; Darke, 1994). Nonetheless, the experience of home, traditionally considered a feminine space, can be dramatically different for women and men (Darke, 1994). Feminist scholars criticize interpretations of home as private and closed space, because privacy often translates into perpetuation of power differentials between genders. Such impermeability to external contacts hinders the normalizing role of social controls, especially for instances of legal or human right violations. Far from being a place of safety, home may in fact become synonym of fear, abuse, and oppression (Giddens, 1990; Jones, 2000). The ideas of home as a relational context and as a place of attachment were the core of Heidegger’s conceptualizations of home (Heidegger, 1971). In Heidegger, home becomes the place in which people were initially thrown into the world. However, the concept of home moves from a condition of space and time to becoming the context of being-in-the-world. By dwelling with the world of relations and relationships of a mobile concept of home, people develop their abilities to give meanings to reality and to connect


35 with it. The ability to dwell, especially in such a meaningful place as home, becomes the “homeland of our thoughts” (Mallett, 2004, p. 83). Heidegger’s idea of home as the place in which people dwell suggest that relational contexts and interpretations open and prepare persons to the possibility of encountering the world. It follows that “home is not a static place” (Wise, 2000, p. 305), but it is the context for ongoing being and becoming. In such context, people connect and relate within the limits of home walls and lands. Home becomes a territory with changing borders; in constructing the territory, people find their place and space, their being and belonging. In this sense, “subjectivity is a product of territorializing” (ibid., p. 295). 2.2.1 Home and Place Phenomenological researchers such as Gurney (1997) and Despres (1991) emphasize the personal experience of interpreting home in order to reconstruct it in a different environment. Rather than being concerned about definitions of home, these authors explore interpretations and perceptions that direct people to award the status of home to a new place. These authors’ approach strongly emphasizes the active roles that interpretations have in the creation of human experience. The observation that places can become homes (and vice versa) in relation to identifications, relations, and emotional attachments underscores the idea that places are social constructions, rather than entities or physical spaces (Massey, 1992, 1995). It follows that understandings and elaborations of home are developed and achieved within social relations and contexts. A place situates and enables experiences and social constructions. Regarding identity and belonging, places – and especially homes – are background conditions for achieving self-awareness about social positions and subjectivities (see section on Postmodern Identity).


36 Home is not a settled concept; instead, its definition varies according to the social relations that create it and are created by it: “the concept of place irrevocably ties the physical world with the social, cultural, and emotive worlds of people” (Easthope, 2004, p. 137). When applied to refugee studies, this means that perspectives of home represent pragmatic relations with places and people, as well as with narratives and meta-narratives of forced migration. It follows that definitions of home are located within socio-cultural relations, rather than geographical locations. In Sarup’s words, “though we know that place is often associated with tradition, we often forget that tradition, too, is always being made and remade. Tradition is fluid, it is always being reconstituted. Tradition is about change – change that is not being acknowledged” (Sarup, 1994, p. 97. Italics in the original). 2.2.2 Home and Forced Displacement Especially for refugees, the concept of home develops along dimensions of time and space. Refugees often keep vivid and idealized memories of home, even if they commonly consider home as a place that will never be able to repeat itself (Christou, 2002). This means that even in cases of actual return home, individuals are likely to experience feelings of loss and bereavement (Beristain & Don, 1998). For people who have been forced to migrate, home is at once a memory and a hope, since many refugees hold to the dream of eventually returning home (Mallett,2004). The attachment to memories of home has been described as having a critical influence in the cultural adjustment to the new country and in the incidence of mental health concerns among refugees (Beristain & Don, 1998; Nicassio, 1985; Ward, Bochner, & Furnham, 2001). According to these authors, excessive attachment to the memories of home may lead to psychological immobility (usually expressed through


37 clinical depression) related to the belief that by starting a new life, they will betray or lose their past. As part of the mourning for the loss of their home, refugees do not want to engage in the development of a new sense of belongingness (Christou, 2002). In the same line, when displaced individuals identify with the new place and develop their sense of right or property over that place, the attachment to the region from where they originally flew decreases its intensity (Hummon, 1990). The hosting place evolves to become the context and symbol of new values and personal achievements, in a process that will typically lead to cultural assimilation to the host culture (Berry, 1997). If possible, whenever refugees return to their home region or country, they tend to return to their physical home. As it was said above, home is closely related to relations and social constructions, and, therefore, to cultures and identities. The constructing role of the concept of home, as well as its necessarily local definitions and experiences, have a decisive role when politicians and policy-writers specify the consequences and implications of an agreement on the end of conflicts. Although it is commonly taken for granted that migrants move from a place called “home” to a hosting site, the concept and role of home has been quite neglected in the literature to the extent that international legislators made an open call to study the relevance that home may have for refugee return. 2.2.3 Belonging In the psychological literature on identity, especially when associated with counseling, the question “Who am I?” is frequently paired up with that on “Where do I belong?” It is often expected that belonging happens between the individual who aspired to belong and a pre-existing place, group, community, or culture that could or would take the person in. However, from a postmodern perspective, the relation is not that straight:


38 starting from questioning the existence of an individual who operates independently from a place and of a place that exists independently from the individuals that identify with it. As a consequence, the question “where do I belong?” is enriched with other inquiries that underscore the relational character of identity: “Whom do I belong to?”; “Whom do I belong with?”; “Whom do I belong for?”; “Whose knowledge does tell me that I could, might, or should belong there?”; “What is ‘there’ in relation to ‘here’?” 2.3 Return 2.3.1 Conditions for Return to Kosovo Safety, security, limited tenancy rights and freedom of movement, failures of justice, and discrimination are emphasized in the literature on Kosovarian refugees and DP as being among the biggest concerns and impediments for return, especially when it comes to minorities (IAN, 2001; UNHCR, 2002, 2003; Ivanisevich, 2004). In 1999, the UNHCR estimated that, in certain areas of Kosovo, 40% of the houses were not standing. The homeless returnees that were mainly Albanian ended up occupying properties that had been abandoned by Serb DP (Pavlakovic, 2000). Besides being an obvious issue for the original owners, such a situation has fostered social hostility toward minorities as their massive return may translate into legal quests for tenure rights. The legal problems related to property rights and ownerships are rooted in corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency as well as ethnic contrasts between majority and minority groups that hinder the implementation of court rule by the police forces. In Kosovo, the process of property repossession is often left to a sort of individual justice that is inappropriate for a society with democratic aspirations (UNHCR, 2003, October 7). As of early 2003 (almost five years after the end of NATO bombing), Kosovo housing authorities had issued decisions


39 on only 1,856 claims for repossession of properties, some 8 percent of the total claims registered at that time (Ivanisevic, 2004; UNHCR, 2002). In Kosovo, home may no longer be there or the process to gain it back may be a source of problems more than benefits. However, the symbolic meanings and interactions that home represents are difficult to lose. The international agreements on Kosovo do not help in solving this situation. In fact, both the 1998 Rambouillet Agreement and the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords (which signed the end of the Balkans war) stated the right for refugees or displaced individuals to return. However, the former indicated that return was to Kosovo and people had the right of returning to their homes. Instead, whereas the latter spelled out that return had to be to pre-war homes in Bosnia & Herzegovina. In such scenario, the issues about home and assets are emblematic for other broader concerns at the social, cultural, and political level, including political representation, access, educational curricula for minorities, and gender equality. However, according to refugee and DP’s surveys, the most salient of all issues are not related to psychological, social, or legal needs, but to economic growth(Watters, 2001). One of the biggest challenges for Kosovo is to foster forms of economic sustainability that are independent from international aids. In fact, since the beginning of the civil war, international capitals (human, social, economic, organizational, etc.) have represented a huge, but temporary and currently decreasing, asset to the local economy. 2.3.2 Assumptions in the Idea of Return. By defining the criteria by which the refugee status is given to individuals, the 1951 Refugee Convention’s definition of refugee (UN, 1951) (cited in chapter 1) also delineates how such status may conclude. The 1951 definition is still the most commonly used and it implies that the refugee status may terminate in the moment in which


40 displaced individuals are no longer afraid of being persecuted or their fear cannot be any longer considered “well-founded.” Consequently, refugees voluntarily re-avail themselves of national protection. Another scenario for the termination of the refugee status would be that the events that caused fear of persecution ends, refugees re-acquire their nationality or a new one, and are willingly able to re-establish themselves in the country of habitual residence. At least two dimensions of the inverted definition of “refugee” stand out for the purposes of this study. First, the focus is on the willingness to return, which a number of instances throughout human history demonstrated to be a key condition for successful return (Papadopoulos, 2002). In fact, voluntary return is one of the three “durable solutions” to refugee situations identified by UNHCR (1996), the others being local integration and resettlement. Second, the assessment of the conditions that may lead to a termination of the refugee status is clearly a political act. For instance, the definition underscores the presence or lack of well-founded fear. At this point, we may wonder what “fear” is or which fear is well-founded and which one is not. In addition, how can the conditions that motivated fleeing be deemed resolved or concluded? Political, social, and cultural conflicts that did lead to wars and massive episodes of extreme violence and trauma are unlikely to simply vanish with a peace or political agreement. It follows that, in order to understand the likelihood for a return process to be successful, it is important to be critical of “whose knowledge” (Harding, 1991) regulates the policies and, in general, culture of return. For instance, in the case of DP from Kosovo in Serbia, the government of Serbia’s interest has been to promote the return of DP to Kosovo in order to keep a certain level of sovereignty over the region and to avoid the possibility of a


41 mono-ethnic Kosovo. Another important aspect of the above definition is that it calls for considerations of nationality, an idea that is characterized by its strong link to personal, geographical, political, and social identities that may not coincide with each other (Colic-Peisker, 2003; Phinney, 2001; UNDP, 2004). For instance, people may believe that they belong to and identify with the geographical region or aesthetics of Kosovo, while being socially and culturally Macedonian, while at the same time identifying with the Albanian political agenda and ideals. As a consequence, refugees’ views of themselves in the political and socio-cultural setting as well as their views of home and belonging go hand by hand with the likelihood of return and its success (UNHCR/OSCE, 2002). If we assume that a necessary condition of being heard is that of having a voice, it is important to acknowledge the United Nations interim Administration of Kosovo’s political design (UNMIK, 2004) of reestablishing the rights and conditions for refugees’ and DP’s return. A return or repatriation that will occur with dignity1 (OCHA, 1998) to a multi-cultural, rather than mono-cultural region will make the return of minorities more likely to succeed. If handled well, return could improve relations among ethnic groups, strengthen the position of minority communities already living in the province, and contribute to a gradual denouement among previously conflicting communities. However, if returns are overly politicised and mismanaged, they have the potential to jeopardize the already precarious existence of minorities. In short, the way returns are planned and implemented is critical to the long-term sustainability of the process. (ICG, 2002, p. 4) Even though most humanitarian organizations agree on the importance of minority return to re-establish diversity, the return process is not free from political and social 1 “Competent authorities have the primary duty and responsibility to establish conditions, as well as provide the means, which allow internally displaced persons to return voluntarily, in safety and with dignity, to their homes or places of habitual residence, or to resettle voluntarily in another part of the country. Such authorities shall endeavor to facilitate the reintegration of returns or resettled internally displaced persons” (OCHA, 1998).


42 choices and tensions in both exile and majority parties, as demonstrated by the recent riots of March 2004 (that took the life of 30 Serbs, burned churches and monasteries, and left 3,600 Serbs homeless) and the high-rate of emigration of Kosovarian-Serbs. In fact, the end of bombing did not stop the constant outflow of Serbs from Kosovo (Gec, 2003): with the successful return of Kosovo-Albanian refugees after the Rambouillet Agreement, “a stream of refugees headed in the direction of Serbia” as DPs (Arb, 2001, p. 139). Sadly but understandably enough, riots and violence simply inverted its direction, instead of disappearing: “From the moment NATO entered and the Serbian troops left Kosovo, the Serb minorities were forced out and took refuge elsewhere, primarily in Serbia” (Baeryswil, 2001, p. 131). Narratives of return are going to present a strong interweaving between personal and socio-political domains. While, from a political standpoint, return is usually considered the final goal of most international interventions in support of refugees, in the day-by-day experience of displaced individuals the possibility for return often plays a key role in defining and allowing social positions. Indeed, the link to the past is a main aspect in understanding the different positions that refugees may take in regard to their future return to the country or region where they used to live. In this regard, Zetter (1999) describes two dichotomous positions of idealizing the past versus “combining present realities with past images” (p. 13). Refugees’ social positioning is also influenced by direct national and international political pressure to return: individuals and families may be offered compensations (money, benefits, housing, transportations, assets, micro-credit, etc.) or they may be denied social care or welfare if they decide to remain the host country. At a more local


43 level of daily praxis, refugees reported having been perceived as “traitors” who abandoned their country and people in times of need or “opportunists” who took advantage of the generosity of the host country, rather than going back home (Beristain & Don, 1998). Refugees often experienced such social judgments in terms of lack of access and discrimination, and even in terms of professional biases toward psychopathology in the moment in which, for instance, “opportunism. can be a sign indicative of habitual violence and a change in associated values to skepticism and despair” (ibid, p. 20). Again, the critical question regards who defines what a judgmental term as “opportunism” means and when it is applicable. 2.4 Identity 2.4.1 Refugees’ Belongingness and Constructions of Identity A sense of belongingness is frequently considered necessary to foster refugees’ integration in the host society as well as personal and community growth (UNHCR & WHO, 1996; International Labour Office, 2001; Fullilove, 1996; Fontana, 2003; Owens-Manley & Coughlan, no date; UNOCHA, 2002). A certain humanistic and romantic literature has maintained that, when the basic need of belongingness is far from being fulfilled, then people are unlikely to develop self-esteem, love, and creativity (Maslow, 1964). Individuals need to feel that they are not alone, that they “have connections to. . . and the nurturing of others, of community” (Weber, 2000, pp. 31-32). In a similar objectifying fashion, the existential need to belong has often been geographically interpreted: the answer to “who we are” has been translated into “where are we?” (Dixon & Durreheim, 2000). Regarding refugees, the idea of returning home is often seen in its essentialist aspects, like a specific geographical area or home address, instead of


44 exploring the significance that home may have or have not for the community and its members. In the contemporary era, we observe to the unstoppable increase in geographical movements and border crossing as well as to the re-definition of borders and distances that comes with the technological revolution of the media of social communication and the globalization of knowledge (Gergen, 1991; Vattimo, 1997). A fundamental consequence of such social processes of definition and construction of knowledge is that the romantic interpretation of belongingness needs to be reconsidered in order to be adaptable to a world of migration or movement. Most scholars agree on the key role that the sense of belonging plays in the development and wellbeing of personal identity. Nonetheless, differences emerge among frameworks with regard to considering belongingness as constrained to a specific geographical place (Fullilove, 1996, Dixon & Durrheim, 2000) or, instead, as emerging from relational constructions and narratives of power and knowledge that contribute to constructions of belongingness (Gergen, 1991; Holstein & Gubrium, 2000). The latter interpretation is much closer to the theoretical background of this study than the former: belongingness is not seen as a frozen category or a social trait that defines the individual, but instead as the consequence of socio-cultural and relational processes of meaning-making. As a result of this framework, the attention shifts from identity constancies to the ability of being responsive to influences and relations that construct multifaceted definitions of the person. Being a refugee is, therefore, not a constancy of one’s identity or a trait of personality, but a condition of the relations of power, a position in which the subject was in the moment of violence (when she or he had to flee) and resettlement


45 (when the “refugee” label meant legal and humanitarian rights as well as social obstacles). From a social constructionist perspective, being a refugee is not an identity, but a flexible set of social positions (Harr & Langenhove, 1999; Harr & Moghaddam, 2004). As I will describe later on in this chapter and in chapter 3, I conceptualize identities as social constructions and relational achievements produced by storytelling. The ongoing dialogue between the internal and the external world portrays the individual as “fluid and mobile, more susceptible to change, more open to variation” (Adler, 1977, p. 227). Following this approach, identity is based not on a ‘belongingness’, which implies either owning or being owned by culture, but on a style of self-consciousness that is capable of negotiating ever new formations of reality. He or she is neither totally a part of nor totally apart from his or her culture; instead, he or she lives on the boundary” (ibid., p. 228). To belong to a community, to feel connected, to talk familiar languages (literally and metaphorically) are critical aspects of the migrants’ experience and wellbeing. It follows that definitions of community answer to personal needs of identifications as well as the related social perceptions and definitions of roles in the socio-political context. At the same time, such definitions challenge the possibility of distinguishing between personal and community aspects of one’s self. In this sense, identity is “the story we tell of ourselves and which is also the story others tell of us. But identities are not free-floating, they are limited by borders and boundaries” (Sarup, 1994, p. 95. Italics in the original). In the chapter on Method, I will argue that the very distinctions between personal and social, internal and external, or individual and relational are questioned in a postmodern condition of knowledge.


46 2.4.2 Narrative-Postmodern Identity Traditionally, the psychology literature on identity assumes an “intrinsic essential content, defined by a common origin or a common structure of experience, and often, both” (Howard, 2000, p. 385). According to a constructivist epistemology, everything is constructed, including one’s self. The Self is an ongoing process of construction of one’s own position and relation within social and cultural contexts. This process is social, cultural, and relational and it originates the idea of self as a mobile configuration of “personal events into a historical unity with includes not only what one has been but also anticipations of what one will be” (Polkinghorne, 1988, p. 150). Such historical unity is social and, therefore, related to subjectivities and cultures as well as to the process of positioning itself in the political and power context (Harr & Langenhove, 1999). Such positioning does not start from scratch: we come to worlds that are already spoken, that present preexisting knowledge and orders. Such grand narratives are not static or determining of the person. Instead, they are part of the constant and inevitable process of storytelling. At the same time, by building a text and relating it to other texts and audiences, tellers contribute to the construction of knowledge and, therefore, of the worlds hey narrate. In the postmodern condition, objects and subjects, identities and positions, roles and social expectations become increasingly part of the experience of being human (Lyotard, 1988/1992): they are neither true nor false. Rather, they represent a “multiplicity of heterogeneous language games. [that are] the basis for a pluralistic social pragmatics” (Godzich, 1988/1992, p. 124). It follows that, in the process of narrating their identities or positions, refugees also create the conditions for their future becoming and, at the same time, for their proactive functioning in the social context. These social pragmatics create the bases for a relational and postmodern approach to


47 agency, which will be discussed later on in this chapter and in the concluding section of the dissertation. Far from the essentialist self of certain psychoanalytic and early humanist approaches (Horney, 1950; Erikson, 1968), the postmodern self is seen as a system of social and plural achievements, which do promote or hinder individual agency within multiple structures, like the “body, social interchange, narrative history, physical surrounds” in which the self is embedded (Gergen, 1999, p. 177; Holstein & Gubrium, 2000). The act of telling is conceived as an active question that orders or constructs (in terms of sense making) the narrator’s life within social dynamics of relationships (including those with authorities and grand narratives) in his/her local context. In the act of the telling a story, the person builds sense and coherence (or lack of), which are meaningful for the person and, at the same time, influence and are influenced by the social environments the person lives in. At this point in the exposition of the postmodern and narrative background of this research is it clear that identity is seen as relational, local, and cultural. By virtue of these characterizations of identity, subjectivity is a preferable term for the Self or Selves as it underscores the ever-changing, social, and political nature of postmodern views of identity. At the same time, the term subjectivity underscores the contextand relational-based aspects of our self-constructions, which are not separated from the cultures, languages, and practices of our milieus. “Identities are points of temporary attachment to the subject positions which discursive practices construct for us. They are the result of a successful articulation or ‘chaining’ of the subject into the flow of discourse” (Hall, S., 1996).Identity is a mixed puzzle with no structure and a varying number of polyhedral


48 and shape-changing pieces. In addition, similar to the Heisenberg principle (according to which the mere presence of a measuring instrument will alter the nature of measured objects and, as a consequence, exact measures are impossible to achieve) (Heisenberg, 1958), the process of telling will contribute to the creation of different “I’s” at different times and places (Brown & Gilligan, 1992). In a sense, if we assume that there is nothing finite to be revealed, narratives always reveal the speaker’s identity. By sharing a narrative, tellers make a statement or a claim about themselves in terms of who they are in the contexts, relations, and constructions of their lives. Postmodernism underscores that, in the very process of asserting something about us, we also create narratives of exclusions, of a “them” as opposed to an “us”. This process is inevitable and part of our language and languaging: it is part of Derrida’s discourse on differance (see section 2.5.2: Identity and Agency) and grand narratives of constitutive otherness or constitutive outside. Although inevitable and always leading to power differential, the process of self-definition can assume different, more or less democratic styles. By presenting ourselves through specific narratives, we achieve certain positions of authority in regards to others (Harr & Langenhove, 1999). In their turn, such positions contribute to our perceptions of ourselves and our ethical freedom to do something. 2.5 Agency The subject’s ultimate power and freedom of choice depends upon the circumstances, and is therefore determined by predominant ideological influences in each individual situation. As a conscious state of activity, ‘agency’ suggests a distinct, yet culturally variable, postmodern impulse toward self-consciousness with the intention to solvent or undermine social or political oppression (Ortiz, 2001, p. 6).


49 The facilitation and enhancement of agency, defined as the ability to exert possibilities, actions, and control over things, is a critical aspect of successful psychotherapy (Jenkins, 1997). As for the other concepts of this study, such ability is not considered internal to the individual, but it is conceptualized as the result of contextual interactions. Coherently with the postmodern epistemological position on the inseparability of the personal from the social (Gergen, 1999), agency relates to the ongoing network of discursive and linguistic definitions that are (and have been made) present in the person’s world. Agency therefore exists in a context of relations that, at once, respond to and create ethics (in the classic sense of possible actions) and scenarios of power and practice. When it comes to the personal experience of individuals, will or volition (What I want to do) cannot be separated from the political (What I can do), social (What my significant others or the groups I belong to expect me to do), and moral (What I am expected to do; What I should do) influences. The priority is neither on the individual, as in radical constructivist approaches (Glasersfeld, 1981/1984), nor on the socio-cultural, as in certain constructionist interpretations that resemble social determinism. Instead, if we dismiss the distinction among personal, social, and cultural, the sense of agency will be seen as resulting from the same complex network of relations that create knowledge, including of course the knowledge of one’s own ethics and abilities to perform. Agency “is lost somewhere between us, if we settle on an argument for mirrors. One mirror (mine) shows whatever it is showing to another mirror (yours)” (Fisher, 1999, p. 104). In a world of mirrors that neither begins nor ends, everything is perspectival. Any action I will be allowed and will choose to take will depend on the projections that I will


50 observe among mirrors; and I will need to rely on them in order to act. A critical point for postmodern authors is to understand and question the bases (grand narratives) of this mirror system: who placed the mirror there?; who chose the attributes (i.e., shapes, dimensions, colors, curves) of the mirrors?; why were the mirror placed in those positions” The knowledge, values, thoughts, and emotions that will inform my choice for action come from somewhere (mirrors showing other mirrors through specific inclinations and shapes) and represent particular orientations, political agendas, and assumed knowledge. The background “truths”, the present relationships, and the future projections happen in a context of preexisting images or knowledge, linguistic boundaries, and power games that are common and taken for granted. These accepted truths or interpretations on reality and science form the set of “metanarratives” of our historical time and cultural context. In modern Western culture, several psychological and personality theories address the link between personal agency and subjectivity: common dominant assumptions about self and identity are that people are rational, self-contained, autonomous, unique individuals and agents (Sampson, 1989). The underlying premise is that people have a self that is somehow continuous, congruent or consistent, unique, and separate from the outside. However, from a post-structuralist view of subjectivity, agency is not an entity within the individual. Instead, it is the result of positions within historically situated discursive practices. The personal roles and dynamics of the individual are part of this context, but they are not the whole. The move from the self to the other does not mean the annihilation of the individual and the consequent fall into some sort of social determinism (Falmagne, 2004). This means to say that one does not need to examine the


51 motivations or intentions of the author in order to understand the text. The author is dead in order to give room to the interpretative positions of the readers within an historical, relational, and political context. The question about where subject positions come from is not answered from traditional assumptions about subjectivity and intentions (Gergen, 1991). Instead, the process of positioning develops and is understood through the social functions it may serve (Shotter & Gergen, 1989). In addressing agency, postmodernism prefers to focus on pragmatics rather than ontology: the doing of the agent is more important than the being of the agent itself. In line with Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre, this is to say that existence precedes essence. In a typical postmodern and narrative style, it is believed that the former (i.e., doing) creates the conditions for the birth and rise of the latter (i.e., being), as long as, of course, we buy into the whole concept of ontology. To sum up, this study sees agency as resulting from the ongoing dialogue between the four epistemological backgrounds that inform this dissertation: the constructivist epistemological approach of hypothetical realism underscores that knowledge is created and meaning-full within a context. The postmodern relational realism (Shotter & Gergen, 1989) and contextual relativism (Kvale, 1992, 1995) emphasize the socio-cultural, language-based, interpersonal, and power processes that, within local relationships, shape the tools and agendas of a particular condition of knowledge and science. Finally, the pragmatic epistemology draws attention to the functional, constructive, relational, and collaborative character of the knowledge created by narrations. 2.5.1 Sense of Agency and Responsibility In such constructivist, postmodern, and narrative milieu, the concept of human agency and freedom loses its individualistic meaning to become a narrative of


52 constructions and stories (Gergen, 1991). The answer to the question on how we come to make a choice and to act is not found within the individual, but in the context of relationships, values, and possibilities that, along time, the person comes to employ as viable and useful. Experiences do not just happen; they are, at least partially, chosen and people do have a role in shaping their futures. Nonetheless, individual realms of possibility or agency do not depend on the person’s free will or determination, but are shaped by complex and inevitable webs of pre-existing relationships, power games, political agenda, and meta-narratives that constitute the present cultural milieu. Inevitably, present conditions will both allow and disallow access to certain possibilities. However, to the extent that individuals will continue a critical dialogue among values, standards, paradigms, and designs, people and societies will give voice to new forms and attempts to promote agency through “democraticization of epistemologies” (Cahoone, 1996; Foucault, 1978). What prevents this statement and goal from being optimistic is that the critical aspect of that dialogue implies questioning some of the assumed orders of things, including political and power discourses. 2.5.2 Identity and Agency The only reality I can possibly know is the world as I perceive and experience it at this moment. The only reality you can possibly know is the world as you perceive and experience it at this moment. And the only certainty is that those perceived realities are different. (Rogers, 1980, p. 102). The postmodern concern with identity has often been identified with the shift from the internal, person-centered, and relatively stable view of the self to the focus on relational, language-based, temporary and local definitions of one’s social positions (Gergen, 1991; Shotter & Gergen, 1989; Anderson, 1997). The two realms of the person and the social are necessarily linked and they need each other to exist (Gergen, 1999).


53 The continuous communication between them allows the person to develop a sense of oneness2 by creating a differentiation between the I and the no-I. Rather than being metaphysical or ontological, the process of differentiation concerns specific “others” that we relate to and, at the same time, we differentiate from. In this sense, the process of differentiation is necessarily relational and located along space and time. When addressing this process, Derrida takes a further step into language: he creates a neologism “differance” in order to avoid essentialist interpretations and to promote a critical view on the phenomenological (i.e., as it is perceived by the subject) experience of being in the world (Derrida, 1982). Differance describes the language-based process of differentiation among meanings, signifiers/signified, stories, and narratives. At the same time, the irreducible link between this differentiation and “‘timing’ (deferring) and ‘spacing’ (differing) as mutually inter-dependent aspects of the same process” of differentiation (Nizamis, 2002, p. 99). As reality is created through the process of differentiation, it assumes that any definition or construction is local and bonded to time and space. Derrida’s differance underscores the local character of human experience, and therefore the importance of context: difference from something else along time and space. The process of differentiating the self from the other is directly linked to the perceived sense of agency and responsibility. If human experience is local, language-based, and shaped by and within the relations and possibilities of the context, then sense of agency cannot be understood or influenced through absolute categories of personality or identity, as in romantic or modern traditions of thought (Gergen, 1991). As Falmagne states, 2 See, in this regard, also Heidegger’s concept of “dwelling” in the literature review of the “home”.


54 Agency is constrained, and its local deployment does not overshadow the systemic forces. Because the individual is located, (individual) agency is, of necessity, only deployed locally, and its effect must be produced through a dialectic engagement with systemic processes, processes that both constrain and enable those local negotiations (Falmagne, 2004, p 839). As mentioned above, human experiences of agency are at once personal and social, transcending the modern and objectifying metanarratives of dichotomy, especially “agency vs. structure” (Butt, 2001) and “self-other” (Gergen, 1999). Nonetheless, the “self-other” antinomy is such a prominent part of our current cultural context and so deeply embedded in our language that it constitutes a given and persuasive meta-narrative from which is almost impossible to escape. The postmodern agenda does not imply to move beyond the dichotomy: it simply challenges its right to exist as a metanarrative. Postmodernism underscores the deconstruction of the centered self by acknowledging the constant dialogues among possibilities that take place within a cultural and political context. From a narrative-postmodern perspective, subjectivities are created in and by these dialogues: subjectivity is seen as “an object of discourse actively constituted at the intersections of truth and power” (Besley, 2001, p. 81; Foucault, 1982/1984; 1987). In order for a sense of personal agency to emerge, individuals have to be seen and approached as relating to their context of life, especially along the lines of self-knowledge (i.e., how do clients know that they are depressed, anxious, traumatized?) (Anderson, 1997) and relational or political dynamics (Larner, 1998; White & Epston, 1990). In counseling, when clients share their presenting concerns with the therapist, the subjectivities of clients and therapists collaborate as experts to develop acceptable narratives by creating and giving voice to metaphors and analogies of identity and agency (Anderson, 1997). In their relationship with counselors, clients create and experiment


55 viable possibilities about narratives of identity that are embedded within discourses and contexts. To conclude, the discourse on agency is complex and difficult as it touches some of the hard-core believes of the liberal thought on individuality and free will.


CHAPTER 3 METHOD 3.1 The Research Question: Key Concepts and Purposes In the Introduction and Literature Review of this dissertation, I described the meanings, contexts, and purposes that influence subjectivities, terms, and positions of this study. The concepts of identity, home, return, and self-agency were described according to the scientific literature and according to their relevance for this study’s expectations and goals. In this section, the research keywords will be linked to each other as well as to the research contexts. In such process of relating to other topics and subjectivities, each term of the research questions will construct its definitions, narratives, and range of possibilities (i.e., ethics). In fact, as it will be described in this chapter, the philosophical and theoretical background of this research underscores the creative and empowering role that narratives and narrating have in the life and contexts of individuals. In general, constructions and interpretations will be emphasized for their potential roles in counseling and for their ability to create empowering psychological possibilities (Anderson, 1997). With this goal in mind and to the extent of the feasible, the research questions will serve as a guide that will narrow this inquiry’s focus on refugees. This dissertation aims at developing an answer to the following research questions: How do people who consider themselves Kosovarian refugees construct their narrative identities and employ those narratives to inform their perceptions of self-agency, home, and return? 56


57 The adverb “how” underscores the pragmatic intent to focus on the ways in which something is achieved. From a constructivist perspective, the “how” creates the “what” (Weber, 1906/1949). As it will be explained in the sections on epistemology, this whole dissertation relies on the perspective of hypothetical realism (Mahoney, 1988), a position that sees access to reality as being always mediated by paradigmatic assumptions, epistemological standpoints, scientific methods, and inquiring tools and agendas. Regardless of whether reality exists or does not, it is never knowable in absolute and out-of-context terms: any knowledge is a perspective that depends on values and theories. Hypothetical realism explains the hermeneutic and constructivist wording of the research questions: terms such as “consider”, “construct”, “narrative”, and “sense” emphasize the role of interpretations and social positions, which question any ontological and absolute assumption of reality. The research questions develop along two moments: the initial focus on the refugees’ narratives of identity is followed by the implications and functions that those narratives may have for the participants’ sense of agency, home, and return. The two dialectic times of the research question should not mislead the reader by suggesting a unidirectional influence of the first focus (narrative identity) on the second (agency, home, and return). In fact, constructions of identity, agency, home, and return are expected to influence each other by constantly re-defining themselves and their possibilities in the local context (Appiah, 2005). It is important to bear in mind that narratives are not entities or objects; rather, they are ongoing processes that are relationally and contextually constructed and told. Similarly, the epistemological approach of this dissertation sees identity as a narrative, a set of constructions put in


58 sequential order to promote goals, styles, performances, and positions (Shotter & Gergen, 1988; Holstein & Gubrium, 2000). When asked to describe themselves, individuals need to decide from where to start and how to develop their account on who they are. Their choices are considered meaningful and purposeful within the relational contexts in which participants live and interviews take place. On the other hand, interviewees are asked to provide data for the research. To an extent, the researcher’s agenda is always imposed on the process of data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Nonetheless, the degree by which this imposition happens informs the level of empowerment and freedom of the speaker. For instance, in psychoanalysis, the unconscious material that is brought to consciousness needs to be interpreted in order to be of therapeutic use. At this point, however, psychoanalytic schools of thought differ significantly: whereas for some psychoanalytic orientations the unique therapist-client relationship informs the interpretative process so that the “reality” of the unconscious material is tailored on the client’s needs, other traditions suggest the use of pre-determined interpretations on the client regardless of whether she or he agrees with them. Moreover, if clients disagree, they are usually said to be “resistant”. As a consequence, some psychoanalysts are like “crossword puzzle solvers” (Warren, 1990, p. 454) who impose theoretical molds and agendas. In contrast, narrative and “constructivist counselors rely on how the client personally and socially construes the world” (Epting, Gemignani, & Cross, 2003). The narrative agenda is not to impose interpretations, but to promote the client’s ability to create and organize their phenomenological realities in useful and functional ways (Anderson, 1997). It follows that, if the process of storytelling is a pragmatic construction of reality, then narratives are realities or, better, they are tools


59 in the process of constructing reality: as I will say later on, narratives are epistemologies that create knowledge. By narrating we come to know what we know, including what we know about ourselves: from this position, identities cannot therefore be discerned from narrative identities. There is no true self that romantically resists social relations. Instead, the concept of position substitutes that of identity: people achieve an understanding of who they are by relating with their interlocutors in the continuous process of narrating about themselves through languages and actions. As narratives always develop within social contexts and they are assumed to fulfill more or less specific functions and agendas, they are seen as social achievements for both storytellers and audiences (Holstein & Gubrium, 2000). In this sense, narratives are “employed”: participants use or apply them to inform (i.e., to shape, delineate, or guide1) their interpretations of their right to shape their future and their views of home and return. In this sense, narratives are tools (Rorty, 1967) with no ontological status. Like language, narrative tools create reality at the same time in which they describe it (Wittgenstein, 1953). A last comment should be made in regard to the broadness and goals of the research topics. Without a doubt, the fields addressed in the research questions are complex and involve a number of disciplines in the human and social sciences. When intentionally adopting a multidisciplinary perspective, the main risk is for the study to become so broad that it could be difficult, if not impossible, to adequately address the 1 The following are some meanings of the verb “to inform” that are relevant to the research question: “To put into (material) form or shape; to form, shape, frame, mould, fashion”; “To put into proper form or order, to arrange; to compose”; “To delineate, sketch, describe”; “To give form to the mind, to discipline, instruct, teach (a person), to furnish with knowledge”; “To direct, guide” (from the Oxford English Dictionary).


60 complexity of the research question. On the other hand, however, researchers interested in understanding human experience may want to formulate multifaceted and complex interpretations by involving different scientific disciplines and traditions. With regard to the aesthetic balance between complexity and manageability, it is useful to keep in mind that the goal of a qualitative work is not to provide truthful accounts on the nature of human experience. Qualitative research – at least in this study’s version, which I called “narrative-postmodern” (see section on Philosophical and Epistemological Bases of this Research – develops in the intertwining of constructions and subjectivities (participants, investigators, and audiences) that takes place within local cultural and political contexts (e.g., doctoral committee, research agendas, national and international political and legal scenarios, etc.). 3.2 Theoretical Perspectives This dissertation endorses an epistemological and philosophical approach that comes from at least four backgrounds: constructionism, narrative psychology, pragmatism, and postmodernism. Although there is surely enough room for these four traditions to underscore their differences, there is also a middle and common ground on which the main epistemological positions of this dissertation rest. Keeping in mind that this is not a philosophical treatise, I do not aspire to provide an exhaustive synthesis of the complex philosophical panorama that links constructivism, narrative approaches, pragmatism, and postmodernism. In addition, as this is an applied study, I will underscore the practical implications of certain epistemological choices. Therefore, I will focus just on those philosophical dimensions that are relevant to the method, participants, findings, and agendas of this dissertation.


61 Context is the first topic that the four philosophical approaches emphasize by virtue of being the historical and relational domain within which interpretations and actions occur. 3.2.1 The Importance of Context In order to fully understand postmodern-narrative research and practice, it is important to restate the role of context. The process of storytelling happens in linguistic, relational, social, and cultural milieus, which locally shape the form, possibility (ethics), and purpose of narratives. Storytelling is a social act with interactive and institutional functions. It is interactive because it emerges in the interaction among narrators, audiences, and socio-cultural contexts. It is institutional because the frames of reference that make a discourse valid or viable represent values, duties, and agendas of influential social and political structures or groups. Therefore, social narratives are implicit manifestations and controls of power and knowledge (Foucault, 1972; 1982/1984). They invite narrators to take assumptions for granted, concealing patterns of domination and submission. As a response, critical researchers are invited to explore, acknowledge, and elaborate counter-narratives in order to resist and subvert these dominating narratives (see section on Counter Narratives). Refugees come with knowledge about whom they are and can become. They present this knowledge about identity and agency to themselves and to others in the storytelling process, in which participants share their narratives and meanings of home and return. The context of fleeing from Kosovo and resettling in the USA, the discursive context of narratives and meta-narratives of border-crossing and immigration are more than just the environment in which actions or events take place. Those contexts represent the backgrounds that, using a Gestalt analogy, make figures stand out and visible from


62 the rest. Contexts enable specific directions in the refugees’ lives and, regarding this study, they enable the research topic to exist. The verb “to exist” derives from the Latin ex-istere, which means to stand out toward, to emerge into possibilities, to become, to differentiate. In the same way, the research subjects and subjectivities (Tolman & Brydon-Miller, 2001), including participants, investigators, and scientific audience, create a relational context in which they exist, become, and operate for each other. Similarly to other approaches that do not take reality for granted, but, instead, emphasize its active constructions by observers (Maturana & Varela, 1980), narrative counseling uses context to better understand the relational dynamic into which personal concerns develop. In feminist and postmodern approaches to counseling, therapy is not limited to the counselor-client work, but extends into social action and advocacy (Anderson, 1997; Kvale, 1992). In fact, approaches that acknowledge the importance of cultural dynamics, such as feminism, social constructionism, and narrative-postmodern therapy, typically imply the exploration of topics like empowerment, political involvement, and social proactivity. 3.2.2 The Postmodern Bases of the Research In tune with the overall epistemological style of this study, the key concepts that define the topics and the epistemological bases of this dissertation are meant to be neither simple nor reducible to simpler terms: by rejecting reductionist and objective approaches, this study embraces broad and multifaceted understandings of its subjects and subjectivities. It is not just the researcher’s role to define the subjects and conclusions of the research. Instead, it is the local, contextual rapport between the reader and the material here presented that will create the final understandings and messages of this


63 dissertation. This also means that meanings and realities are always discursive (Derrida, 1976). In order to set up the general epistemological background of this research, Rorty’s words (1999) introduce some critical observations that influence the choices of the postmodern and pragmatic theories of knowledge that are employed in this work: ‘Everything is a social construction’ and ‘all awareness is a linguistic affair’. Both are ways of saying that we shall never be able to step outside of language, never be able to grasp reality unmediated by a linguistic description. So both are ways of saying that we should be suspicious of the Greek distinction between appearance and reality, and that we should try to replace it with something like the distinction between ‘less useful description of the world’ and ‘more useful description of the world’. To say that everything is a social construction is to say that our linguistic practices are so bound up with our other social practices that our descriptions of nature, as well as of ourselves, will always be a function of our social needs. All our knowledge is under descriptions suited to our current social purposes (p. 48). Epistemology To talk about postmodernism has become increasingly fashionable in the human and social sciences, including psychology. The figure below reports the increased occurrence of the term “postmodern*” in the database Psycho-Info between 1988 and 2005. 1988-1989(31)1990-1991(63)1992-1993(150)1994-1995(273)1996-1997(383)1998-1999(408)2000-2001(469)2002-2003(464)2004June2005 (316) Figure 3-1. Percentage of results for the keyword "postmodern*" out of total Psycho-Info entries (years 1988-2005). Between parentheses, absolute scores for the two years period.


64 It is not easy to provide a clear picture of the multifaceted postmodern movement, which is a response to a perceived cultural condition (Lyotard, 1979/1984; Gergen, 1991). In psychology, the word “postmodern” has been confusingly used to describe a general focus on social action, multiculturalism, and relativism, without fully endorsing the epistemological bases of the movement. Although it may be a contradiction to specify what postmodern psychology is (Kvale, 1992b), on the other hand, for the purpose of clear communication and to avoid confusion, it is appropriate for authors and readers to agree on the main pillars that will constitute the common language of this text. Granted that postmodernism cannot be a strictly-defined orientation and that it is more a cultural condition (a word that underscores the historical, temporal, and local character of the movement) than an absolute set of beliefs (Lyotard, 1979/1984), I would like to give some coherence to the present elaboration of postmodernism. As it will discussed later on in this chapter, coherence is a delicate concept for both postmodernism and narrative inquiry. A postmodern way of looking at coherence is to interpret it not as product of the unidirectional work of the author, but as a social achievement that is reached in ongoing processes of construction and interaction between the text and the reader in the socio-cultural context. It follows that the epistemological and philosophical considerations that create coherence in this study are choices, motivated by relational rationales such as the expectations of the audience’s response and the consideration of coherence as one of the criteria for validity in qualitative research (Denzin & Lincoln, 1998; Lather, 2001; Talburt, 2004). Cahoone (1996, p. 14) identifies “five prominent postmodern themes”, which distinguish such approach to science and epistemology in a critical way. “Postmodernism


65 typically criticizes: presence or presentation (versus representation and construction), origin (versus phenomena), unity (versus plurality), and transcendence of norms (versus their immanence). It typically offers an analysis of phenomena through constitutive otherness” (italics in the original). This set of beliefs broadly agrees with a constructivist epistemology, especially in regard to its focus on meanings, linguistic constructions, and hypothetical reality (Neimeyer & Mahoney, 1995; Shotter & Gergen, 1988) and with the phenomenological emphasis on lived experience and the noema, the meaning correlated with every conscious act (Giorgi, 2005; Moustakas, 1994). Reality is seen as a set of interpretations that is personally, social, and culturally constructed within specific, local contexts. Constructions develop with particular messages, agendas, functions within pre-existing discourses that, at once, enable and bond the freedom and power of meanings and narratives. The role of language is critical in postmodernism, which assumes that the symbolic forms of communication that we commonly use in our social interactions lead to the development of different realities. Constructions happen within language, which limits and at the same time allows our meaning-making processes and relations (Anderson, 1997). Linguistic interactions are the place in which people co-create their subjectivities, their “sense of self in all its multiple and fragmented forms” (Lee, 1997, p. 4). Knowledge, including knowledge of one’s selves, is not a discovery, but an invention (Watzlawick, 1984), which is relationally developed and expressed through ongoing dynamics of power and possibility. At the same time, knowledge also results from pre-existing orders that, like self-fulfilling prophecies, aspire to keep the historical truths, structures, and epistemological styles of the present condition. Knowledge


66 develops in the continuous relationships, comparisons, and differences among local sciences and perspectives. In the postmodern context, the science that is privileged is not that of authenticity or truth, but that of plurality, diversity, and social equality. It is a committed and socially-engaged science, which transcends the norms, the set of given and accepted methods, knowledge, and practices that constitute the normality and morality of the dominant group in the specific historical time and socio-cultural context. From the above considerations about epistemology, it follows that knowledge is neither separated nor separable from judgments and choices. Moral, political, philosophical, consumerist, esthetical positions and agendas are “no longer independent of the processes they serve to govern or judge, but are rather products of and immanent in those processes. The concept ‘good’ and the act of calling something good are not independent of the things we want to call ‘good’” (Cahoone, 1996, p. 15; Kuhn, 1962). Science does not follow an independent, predefined, and progressing path toward the creation of knowledge, because positions, choices, designs, expectations, audiences of research necessarily contribute to the creation of research conclusions. The scientific process of data collection and reduction is not free from judgements; rather, it is shaped by the values the observer brings to the process of observing (Maturana, 1987). As positions and the act of positioning are inevitable, postmodernism chooses to focus on those processes (like power, creation of knowledge, political agendas, and economic designs) that constitute the norms of our time and society (Kvale, 1992, 2003; Gergen, 1991). Making science is not an objective process, independent from the values, meaning, and relationships of the historical and cultural context, including those of the scientists. As Max Weber (1906/1949) first claimed, it is the method that imposes its object on


67 science and not vice versa. And a method comes with precise epistemological and philosophical choices that narrate the text and its subjectivities. In this sense, the first postmodern look is at the omnipresent cultural values and beliefs that shape thoughts and processes. “All postmodernism, in fact, can be summarized as looking at beliefs – including one’s own” (Anderson, 1990, p. 256). Postmodernism looks at the values, structures of power, and metanarratives that create knowledge. The world as we know it is the result of interactions that challenge and re-create any “original” text. If the text loses its authentic message and the reader achieves as much authority in the creation of the text as the author, then the postmodern attention goes to the margins that constitute the text. The frame that holds the picture becomes as important as the picture itself: hierarchies of judgment (e.g., the picture being more valuable than the frame or the main figure of a painting being more important that the background) are challenged to create a new, more comprehensive, and politically aware (in terms of power differentials) worldview. In fact, postmodern scholars, especially feminists, multiculturalists, and postcolonialists, observe that the margins of the text are usually neglected by using the same hierarchies of values and epistemologies that create cultural dichotomies (e.g., powerful vs. invisible individuals) in our societies (Foucault, 1975/1979, 1978; Gergen, 1991; hook, 1984; Hermans & Kempen, 1998; Kvale, 1995, 2003; Jameson, 1991; Negri & Hardt, 2000; Parker, 2005). The postmodern focus is on the Other, the unsaid or unvoiced, the narratives of exclusion and marginalization. Hopefully, this focus will lead to co-constructing counter-narratives of awareness and reflexivity, more than liberation and emancipation (see section on “Counter Narratives”). The virtually absent, the implicitly and explicitly devalued


68 become as important as the told, which can only be understood in the light of what is excluded or repressed. To an extent, this approach to otherness and difference (Derrida, 1982) is similar to the constructivist idea that therapists need to know both the positive (i.e., expressed) and the idiosyncratic opposite pole of a construct in order to understand its meaning (Kelly, 1955). The emphasis on a relational reality underscores the enriching and “humbling” (Gergen, 2001) power of difference. In this sense, “[postmodern knowledge] refines our sensitivity to differences and reinforces our ability to tolerate the incommensurable” (Lyotard, 1979/1984, p. xxv). Knowledge from Power and as Power We are drawn into relations of power when we make meaning and it makes us who we are (Parker, 1999, p. 6). In a postmodern scientific context, the discourses on power, empowerment, and grand narratives are crucial to understand and address social phenomena (Gergen, 2001). Power and empowerment represent strategies to select and influence reality by drawing attention to certain topics, presenting specific accepted truths, and enabling (and hindering) certain actions. In this process, knowledge is politically produced: “Foucault taught us to be skeptical. He could not imagine any production of knowledge as a virgin birth” (Richer, 1992, p. 110). In the postmodern epistemological context, any discourse is political: it is chosen and interpreted within an almost infinite array of possibilities in order to fulfill certain political agendas or research designs (Burr, 2003). While in some instances the purposes of a discourse are quite explicit and well-accepted (e.g., human rights for minority groups), other times they are more hidden, like the economic


69 multiculturalism that transforms the discourse on minority rights, access, and empowerment into marketing strategies2. Interpretations of history are indeed one of the most salient points of the postmodern critique to modern science and knowledge. History and genealogy permeate the lives of individuals, societies, and cultures (Foucault, 1977/1984). In a typical postmodern metonymy, history represents the cause and effect of narratives of existence, which in their turn construct history. However, history is not a simple chronicle of events, but is an act of telling: it is a political endeavor in which certain discourses and interpretations are underscored over other potential views and orderings. This “impossibility to conceive history as a unitary discourse. . . . does not arise simply from the crisis of European colonialism and imperialism. This impossibility is also, and perhaps mainly, the result of the irruption of the media of social communication” (Vattimo, 1997, p. 642). The above observations suggest a view of knowledge as constructed by power and linguistic structures that constantly negotiate new relations between the signified and the signifier. Structures of language and power are external to the individual and, at the same time, they categorize and mark the subject: They impose “a law of truth on him which he must recognize and which others have to recognize in him” (Foucault, 1982. Citied in Richer, 1992, p. 112). These power dynamics often entail modes of social domination, 2 Social critics as Jameson (1991), Negri & Hardt (2000), and Kvale (2003) underscore the postmodern risk that narratives of freedom and awareness (like the link between power and knowledge or the prescribing role of meta-narratives) can create an ideal context for the final “victory” of the capitalistic and consumerist ideology. Examples of this ideology can be seen in the creation of values related to consumerism (“I buy, therefore I am”) in culture that are not traditionally capitalistic, in the trivialization of gay life-style into fashion and appearance (with the creation of labels as “metro-sexual” or “pomo-sexual”), in self-fulfilling rhetoric of urban gentrification that targets minorities, or in prophecies of ghettoization when the success of African-American young fellows is uniquely represented in and made accessible through sport or entertainment performance.


70 which in psychology apply themselves to “either exclude or normalize” (Richer, 1992, p. 114). Implications for Counseling Psychology The critical awareness on the political and power-based foundations of knowledge, including self-knowledge, is a pillar of postmodern influences on counseling. Through the process of critically inquiring into given kinds of knowledge, postmodernism aims to deconstruct, challenge, and point out authoritarian statements, assumptions of truth, and grand narratives that constitute the set of moral judgment around normality and good science that are presented as facts (Foucault, 1975/1979; 1978). The loss of authority of traditionally leading figures and references as well as the questioning of epistemic and heuristic truths are signs of a postmodern era in which knowledge is openly seen as a construction rather than a discovery. From an epistemological and, therefore, political perspective, postmodern scholars question the origins of knowledge: the question “whose knowledge?” has become as necessary to understand validity as “what truth?” Equally, if not more, important is the related question of “who will benefit from the implications, consequences, orders that knowledge creates?” (Harding, 1991). As knowledge always belongs to somebody, then postmodern social scientists focus on the linguistic – and, therefore, relational and social – character of reality (Gergen, 1991, 2001). Language, discourses, and meta-narratives create a system of meanings and relations that precedes the formulation of any knowledge. Without language and relations there would be no reality. However, the choice or presentation of any reality, discourse, or relation necessarily limits other possibilities: if interpretations are opposite or very far from some of the core assumptions of mainstream science, then they are repressed or ridiculed, with no possibility for alternative viewpoints to gain access to the circles of scientific power


71 (Foucault, 1975/1979). In the same way, by endorsing certain assumptions, orders, and truths, any narrative is, simultaneously, also a narrative of exclusion. This is clearly evident when discourses neglect or downgrade others that may challenge the established hierarchies of power and authority. In a world of contrasts and segregations and of winners and losers, in which “the winners prove that they are virtuous and good by winning” (Hermans & Kempen, 1998, p. 1113), postmodernism assumes that cultural units are maintained in their unity “only through a process of exclusion, opposition, and hierarchization” (Cahoone, 1996, p. 16). Among some of the most interesting consequences of postmodernism in psychology is the critical attention to romantic master-narratives of authenticity and liberation of certain humanistic psychology (Gergen, 1991; Cushman, 1995). Postmodernism also points out that the social constructionist’s view of a plural identity is close to the “consumer ideology”, which promises “consumers the freedom of constructing their own worlds, of creating their own style through the purchase of the right products” (Kvale, 2003, p.591). Even more important is the reflection on the cultural imperialism of the current globalization, on the imposition of a cultural code that aims at the creation of a world market and a market ideology (Negri & Hardt, 2000). As Kvale states, “a man uprooted from the culture he lives in, pursuing his own self-realization through commodities and individual therapy is a man well adapted to a free global consumer market” (Kvale, 2000, July). Of course, this statement is of immediate interest for a study on border crossing that has field intervention in its agenda. The risk is that of the rich, wise, Western expert who comes to rescue the poor and the uncivilized. This risk is also present in science, with the overwhelming domination of


72 research and publications from affluent Western countries. In this context, postmodern researchers advocate to “take local narratives of man seriously” (Kvale, 2000 July) and to endorse the humble psychology that Gergen (2001) hopes will eventually get rid of the pretensions for methodological superiority that currently fill much of the discourse on research and science within psychology. 3.2.3 The Narrative Approach The general purpose of narrative inquiry is to see how interview respondents suggest or impose a certain kind of order on their life experiences. By formulating narratives, individuals fulfill specific designs of reality and, therefore, social interactions and functions (Riessman, 2002a). Narrations therefore imply a more or less aware choice on what and how to tell. This choice is expected to be meaningful and to compose and express narratives in order to fulfill particular functions or agendas. From the functional, pragmatist perspective that informs certain approaches to narrative inquiry (Cladinin & Connelly, 2002), the choices at the bases of our storytelling provide critical information that supplement what we actually tell. This means that what we choose to say creates our stories and, at once, our ways of interpreting and positioning ourselves in the world. Therefore, our process of storytelling constructs our relational reality. To an extent, the focus on the rationales beyond a narrative is similar to Adler’s “Early Recollections” technique of assessment, in which patients are invited to recall their earliest memory (Adler, 1937). The point of early recollections is not to dig into the memory store: instead, recalled memories talk as much about primordial experiences of patients’ lives as about the present and future lives of clients. Out of the endless array of information, events, memories that compose the human experience, people select specific aspects that are then linked together in a narrative composition. In this sense, for the


73 narrative researcher, the what is told is a linguistic strategy toward understanding “why was the story told that way?” (Riessman, 2002a, p. 218. Italics in the original). Narrative approaches assume that people live in a storied world and that they interpret the actions of others and themselves through the stories they exchange. Narratives are therefore recounts on perceived or experienced realities that, in turn, create or reconstruct realities and possibilities. As a consequence, narratives are always co-constructions among social and cultural agents. Narratives are modalities and strategies of relating to the world, rather than simple descriptions (Rorty, 1967). In fact, narrating implies a story (sequences, plots, characters, intents, and messages of a narrative style) and a relational context (pre-existing language, knowledge, discourses, socio-cultural values, interactions, and political dynamics). The form of telling integrates and gives additional meaning to the context of a story. The importance of ordering information in a particular way relies in the fact that “individuals construct past events and actions in personal narratives to claim identities and construct lives” (Riessman, 1993, p. 2). These constructions extend toward people’s past, present, and future, with the result of interpreting and ordering individual’s lives within specific historical, cultural, and relational contexts, which motivate and justify our particular narratives. Through the acts of experiencing, ordering, and narrating within social contexts filled with influential narratives, identities are created, shaped, stated, and shared. Narratives become social achievements that allow individuals to interact and create contexts and possibilities for their lives. Why Study Narratives? If we assume that every interpretation is the result of contextual and relational processes of meaning-making and communication, then we can positively state that the


74 process of putting ourselves in relationship by storytelling is a typical human process of reality construction (Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, & Zilber, 1998). “Humans are storytelling organisms” and narratives can be seen as metaphors for the ways in which people experience life and the world (Clandinin & Connelly, 1990, p. 2). Similarly, “living involves continually constructing and reconstructing stories of our lives, without knowing their outcomes, revising the plot as new events are added” (McAdams, Josselson, & Lieblich, 2001, p. xv). Narrative modes of knowing emphasize the idiosyncratic as well as shared, relational, and in-language particulars and experiences of life (Bruner, 1986, 1990). Through language, narratives provide a sequential and constructive order to the world. It’s a world with no landmarks of unconditional knowledge; a world in which relationships define agents and reflexivity defines subjectivities through local positions within contexts. It is exactly this process of exploration and construction of local realities and relations that is often betrayed when qualitative research takes its processes of data reduction and analysis out of their context. Codes, themes, and categories are often created and analyzed independently from the sequential order in which they were originally shared with the interviewer (Mishler, 1986). Narrative research, instead, is particularly interested in the role that contexts (the “where” of the research question), relations (“who” is involved in the creation of information, data, or knowledge), and functions (“why” this is said or not said here; “how” the speaker employs this information to create specific views, constructions, or stories) have in allowing the possibilities of narratives (the “what” of stories). Narrative analysis focuses on “how the story is constructed, what linguistic tools are used, and the cultural context of the story”


75 (Merriam, 2002, p. 287). It is in fact assumed that knowledge and experience are always located (Besley, 2001) and interpreted “into the known patterns of events” (White & Epston, 1990, p. 2). In addition, narrative researchers examine “why they remember and retell what they do” (Coffey & Atkinson, 1996, p. 57). By exploring and understanding narratives from a multifaceted and relational viewpoint and framework, narrative inquiry aspires “to humanize and deepen the work in the various social sciences, to bring it closer contact with human beings, seeking to give form and meaning to experience” (Freeman, 2001, p. 283-284). The research question refers to the participants’ constructions and experiences of themselves, their homes, and the possibility of return to the region from where they flew. The narratives that the research participants are going to formulated and tell are not representations of reality, but are functional strategies by which individuals assign meanings and put order to their life stories. In this sense, narratives are pragmatic. However, from a constructivist epistemology, the process of interpreting is not neutral: it is the very basis of reality construction (Watzlawick, 1984). Narrative-postmodern epistemology further expands this epistemological position of hypothetical realism by acknowledging the constructive and limiting power of pre-existing knowledge and relations. These unavoidable metanarratives limit the perspectives and freedom of individuals, who come to be trapped into existing equilibriums and powers. People are not granted direct and truthful access to a finite reality: the only accessible realities are those that are developed within the socio-cultural relations and contexts where the subject of different positions lives. Therefore, in a world of increased communications and plural identities, the narrative attention to the constructive role of interpretations and stories


76 reflects a position of hypothetical realism as well as of contextual relativism (Kvale, 1995) and relational realism (Gergen, 1991). This interest on narratives will therefore help the research focus on social constructions of experiences, identities, and possibilities. “A narrative is not merely a transmission of information. The story creates and maintains social bonds” (Kvale, 1995, p. 21). Constructions of agency and identity are not isolated and individual. They are part of the network of social constructions and master-narratives that characterizes and constructs interpretations of Kosovarian refugees’ lives. Narratives are constructed and told in social and linguistic interactions that constructing meanings construct realities, contexts, and possibilities. As a consequence, narratives contribute to the creation and spread of values, interpretative styles, social orders, and therefore unity and identity, within groups and, in general, relational contexts. It follows that stories are systems of constructions that the speaker develops in collaboration with his/her audience and socio-cultural contexts. In this sense, narratives are always co-constructions and we as researcher “do not find stories; we make stories. We retell our respondents’ accounts through our concepts and methods. . . . we construct the story and its meaning” (Mishler, 1997, p. 117. Italics in the original). Narrative Inquiry: Different Interpretations of a Popular Methodology In 1995, Mishler published an influential review of the field of narrative analysis. In this section, following and integrating Mishler’s exposition with other works in the literature, I will provide a general landscape of narrative inquiry. Due to the broadness and constant production of works in narrative analysis, my endeavor will necessarily be limited. Nonetheless, it will inform the reader on some of the methodological choices


77 taken in this study. The different theoretical and analytical forms of narrative research can be ordered according to: a. reference and relation between temporal ordering of events and their narrative representation; b. textual coherence, logic, and structure, and how these are achieved through narrative strategies; c. psychological, cultural, and social contexts and functions of narratives. The typology that Mishler creates represents different ways to locate meaning in relation to the narrative or narrating. It is important to bear in mind that these distinctive criteria are not always mutually exclusive, although they often entail different epistemological positions. a) Reference and temporal order. Although it is just one of the three main typologies identified by Mishler (1995), this is likely the most popular and well-known kind of narrative analysis. At the same time, this particular focus on narrative is very distant from this research’s epistemological positions of hypothetical realism, relational knowledge, and contextual relativism (see section “Postmodern influences in this study” for an elaboration of these concepts). By underscoring the importance of the formal structure of a narrative, researchers that follow this approach emphasize the role of temporal ordering in giving unity and coherence to a text. According to this view, the quality of a narrative is intrinsically connected to its structure and to the objective sequence of actual events (Labov, 1972, 1982). The root of this realistic epistemology “assumes a ‘correspondence’ or ‘mirror’ theory of the relation between language and reality” (Mishler, 1995, p. 92) and between the “order of the told” and the “order of the telling” (Goodman, 1980). Such assumption


78 is contrary to a poststructuralist and constructivist approach, which underscore relational and relativist views of knowledge. b) Textual coherence and structure: narrative strategies. The focus of this type of analysis is on how narratives are constructed, instead of temporal ordering as in the previous approach. This idea of narrative strategy refers to the act of telling (Goodman’s “order of telling”), which is emphasized over the “order of told” (Goodman, 1980). Events do not need simply to be recorded or observed in their occurrence, but they need to be narrated. The main epistemological difference from the previous type of narrative analysis is that, in this approach, the constructing influence of the researcher is put in the foreground. Like a historiographer, “accounts achieve unity and coherence not from the objective patterning of real events, but from the culturally grounded rhetorical and linguistic conventions” (Mishler, 1995, p. 103). Any narrative, in other words, is the fruit of specific interpretations and meaningful orderings, which are achieved within social, linguistic, and cultural patterns and fashions. Meaningfulness does not come exclusively from the narrator, but also from the audience, communication norms, and context in which narratives are told. c) Narrative functions: contexts and consequences. This third general category focuses on the “‘work’ stories do, on the settings in which they are produced, and on the effects they have” (Mishler, 1996, p. 107). This type of narrative approach is most relevant to this research because, first, it assumes that the primary units of analysis are persons, cultures, social process, and institutions. Second, it assumes that by the act of narrating the speaker constructs reality in a pragmatic, functional way. In other words, the


79 narrator orders the particular narratives into discursive styles and contents to be presented to the audience in order to fulfill some meaningful goals and agendas. Narratives are personal and social and cultural. They represent the limits as well as the possibilities that persons or groups have to narrate themselves, their being-in-the-world, agency, and empowerment. These narratives deal with issues of power and the constraints of dominant narratives (grand, meta, master narratives), but at the same time they also represent the reference point for building alternative narratives and therefore new possible definitions and existences. Narrative psychotherapy assumes that “healing” will happen through a restoration of experiences by re-authoring interpretations orders in ways that are more functional for the client. Epistemologically speaking, the narrative function approach implies that reality is meaningful and socially constructed. Meaningfulness is not just an individualistic achievement; rather, it happens within a local context of social, cultural, and societal narratives, which can be a source of both possibility and limitation for the subject. Differently from certain social constructionist and feminist approaches that are moved by ideologies of liberation and emancipation, the goal of the approach adopted in this dissertation is not to show that the narrator is oppressed, but to facilitate – rather than provide or voice – the development of alternative constructions and narratives. In other words, the research goal of this approach is to understand the participants’ power and ability of exploring and actively embracing possibility. Narrative coherence Regarding the search for a common ground, narrative approaches within psychology vary significantly. On one side, there are those narrative interpretations that value forms of “contextual relativism” (Kvale, 1995, pp. 20-21) or hypothetical,


80 language-based, and relational realism (Anderson, 1990; Anderson, 1997; Gergen, 1991; Shotter & Gergen, 1986). On the other side, some narrative and constructivist (rather than constructionist) scholars are closer to a cognitive background by endorsing de-contextualized and individualistic quests for coherence, scientific explanation and deductive prediction, ahistorical progress, and linear psychological development (Botella, 1995; Crossley, 2003; Dimaggio et al., 2003; Goncalvez, 1994). The topic of narrative coherence is surely delicate and has attracted a lot of attention in the field of narrative inquiry. However, scholars who endorse a postmodern approach can get out of the linguistic circle between the universal and the idiosyncratic or between internal and external coherence by focusing on the constructive role of context (Anderson, 1997). Coherence is neither personal nor social: instead, it is contextual, historical, and relational. The myth of coherence relies on positivist and modernist aspirations to unified knowledge. Instead, if knowledge and truths are local, then multiple “perspectives cannot necessarily be added together into a unified summation” (Rosaldo, 1989, p. 93). Especially when studying identity, researchers should be careful not to impose or prescribe narrative coherence on the synthesis between “the structures of everyday life and the sociopolitical and socio-cultural realities in which those lives are lived” (Howard, 2000, p. 388). The assumption of a coherence is linked to the expectation that the text is “a system, a unified whole, an emanation from a central problematic”, which also assumes “rationality in the agents” and “excludes possible contradictions from the very beginning” (Alvesson & Skldberg, 2000, p. 101). Aspirations of structural coherence are typical of a modern scientific context, whose worldview is based on the metaphor of an ordered universe that aspires to final truth, linear and ahistorical progress, and legitimated


81 knowledge (Lyotard, 1979/1984; Polkinghorne, 1992). Instead, in a post-structuralist milieu, such assumptions for coherence, plot, and structures of meanings are substituted by a more context-based focus on practices and discourses of positioning (Harr & Langenhove, 1999) as well as in the ongoing interplay between narratives of possibility (ethics), normality, and differance. The topic of narrative coherence will be further addressed in the section on research validity. 3.2.4 Theoretical and Epistemological Bases for the Development of a Narrative-Postmodern Approach to Research and Counseling The previous introduction to the epistemological, philosophical, political, and methodological positions adopted in this study may at times be lengthy and complex. In fact, it represented an ambitious endeavor to integrate postmodernism, social constructivism, narrative therapy, and pragmatism under a whole theoretical approach. Summary of the Theoretical and Methodological Positions of This Research In order to clarify the main assumptions that inform and give epistemological coherence to this dissertation, I will summarize the main points and topics that have so far been discussed: 1. Human beings are languageand meaning-generating systems (Anderson, 1997). The centrality of discourse and language permeates a narrative-postmodern method. It is assumed that subjects, phenomena, narratives, and their socio-cultural contexts can be understood and explored through spoken language, therefore reducing in importance the study of non-verbal or pre-verbal communication. This means that “all forms of knowledge are constructed discourse and discursive practices” (Willig, 2001, p. 121). Language sets the background in which interactions and “negotiations of the meaning of the lived world” constitute reality (Kvale, 1992b, p. 35). 2. The social and the individual cannot be considered as separate realms. Constructions of narratives always happen within local contexts of meanings. This local focus is shaped within social rationalities as well as artful individual constructions: society circumscribes the available and viable repertoire from which individuals generate narrative knowledge and praxes (Gergen, 1999).


82 3. Reality is socially constructed in forms of social actions (including storytelling). As a consequence, reality is always relational (Berger & Luckmann, 1966; Gergen, 1991): it is created, experienced, and narrated through conversations and linguistic actions with an audience (including with oneself). 4. Narrating is a social achievement and a generative act that orders people’s lives and worlds. By constructing or telling narratives, individuals and/or social groups create, interpret, and order past, present, and future events, views of the world, and agendas. People both create and are placed in positions that, in their turn, allow or enable specific narratives to be constructed and told (Holstein & Gubrium, 2000). 5. Narrations and stories are political acts that regulate and result from dialogical interactions among subjectivities and positions within local contexts and discourses (Harr & Moghaddam, 2004; Hermans, 2003). Two main consequences derive from this epistemological position: a. narratives and constructions are always co-authored (“everything is autobiographical”: Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 180). Idiosyncratic definitions and dynamics of power, knowledge, and authorship play a key role in the generation and limitation (ethical possibility) of the act of telling and doing within a local context. b. narratives are meaning-full and they aspire to fulfill purposes, functions, and agendas for individuals and/or groups. 6. Knowledge develops and is organized within grand, meta, and master narratives, which are mainstream and commonly accepted views that, although political, are presented and imposed as truths and dogmas by dominant groups. Grand narratives are mono-voiced epistemologies and explanations that form the granted knowledge of a cultural context. They operate on the order of the “told” and not of the “telling” (Goodman, 1980) and they are challenged in postmodern traditions. 7. Narratives in general (and identity narratives in the particular) are plural, fragmented, local, historically emerged, and contradictory accounts. This point is clearly in contrast to those narrative approaches that value narratives according to their internal consistency, coherence, or logic. Interpretations of reality are always produced and located within one or more specific personal, social, historical, and cultural systems of pre-existing meanings and relations. Perceptions and discourses, including the scientific ones, are only some of the possible constructions of the world (Gergen, 1991). 8. Self, identity, and subjectivity are relational narratives and social achievements defined by positions within theoretical discourses and meta-narratives of knowledge. This point has at least three implications for the understanding of identity: a. Self as narrative: individuals are engaged in the constructive work of self-definition. This defining and enabling endeavor is “a social construction


83 insofar as the raw material available to me for fashioning stories necessarily come from my society, and inevitably instantiate the ideologies and prejudices inherent in it” (Greenberg, 1995, p. 271). Basically, individual narratives develop within the wider realm of culturally dictated narratives. b. Authorship: The focus on societal and cultural narratives and limits does not imply that the individual ceases to have a role in his/her life, becoming a sort of victim of society. Although the self is socially situated, subjectivity still emerges from individual, group, and cultural histories. Self narratives are “conceived as makers of choice” that come out from culture, which is seen “as a menu to be perused in more or less conscious ways” (ibid., p. 272). “We actively construct and live by” the self (Holstein & Gubrium, 2000, p. 10. Italics in the original), but, at the same time, it is “a self [that] does not amount to much, but no self is an island; each exists in a fabric of relations” (Lyotard, 1979/1984, p. 15). “Never the mere reflection of social responses, the self is actively crafted in light of biographical particulars, using culturally endorsed formats” (Holstein & Gubrium, 2000, p. 12). c. Co-authorship of the researcher: As knowledge is relational and reality is contextually generated in praxis (i.e., by doing and relating), narratives are co-authored by researchers, readers, and pre-existing narratives. No discourse is ultimate, absolute, or placed outside an interpretative framework: everything is said by an observer (Maturana, 1988) and “the researcher authors, rather than discovers, knowledge” (Willig, 2001, p. 121). Counter-Narratives “Simplifying to an extreme, I define postmodern an incredulity toward metanarratives” (Lyotard, 1979/1984, p. xxiv). “Invention is always born of dissention” (ibid, p. xxv). I previously wrote that one of the main outcomes of this dissertation will be a proposal for a field intervention in Kosovo and Serbia to facilitate the decision-making process of refugees and DP in regard to whether to settle in the host-country or to return to their home country. Such a proposal is based on at least three assumptions: first, that displaced individuals would benefit from deciding their future in contrast to living in the disempowering limbo that is often described in the refugee literature (Beristain & Don, 1998; Luebben, 2003; Pipher, 2002; United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, 2003; World Vision, 2003). A second assumption is that refugees and DP


84 struggle in taking this decision, which is often experienced as a dilemma between the two negative scenarios of starting a new life in a foreign and often hostile place or going back to a home-country that is deeply changed. As the refugee population is particularly vulnerable to discriminations and violations of human rights (U. N. Economic and Social Council, 2004; United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, 2003), the political contexts of fleeing and settling strongly affect the experience and likelihood of making an informed choice. A third assumption is that dialogue, relations, empowerment, and external help will actually facilitate the decision-making process and that key dilemmas, concerns, and challenges can be accessed and elaborated by Western scholars and researchers. In this regard, this dissertation is a first step in the direction of questioning the paternalistic help of Western experts (often from ex-colonizing nations) who rescue and save the poor. In this context, it is useful to remember the teaching of post-colonialist and postmodern literature concerning the actual possibility of helping someone. Both Gergen’s invitation to an humble science (Gergen, 1991; 2001) and Foucault’s acknowledgement of the indelible knowledge-power connection (Foucault, 1975/1979; 1977/1984; 1982/1984) emphasize the political and educational choices should create the conditions for the development of critical social action and empowerment. Narrative therapy, as well as humanistic and constructivist approaches to counseling, echoes this post-structuralist and post-colonialist invitation to question the role and supposed power of the savior by critically acknowledging the different roles of the participants and by inviting collaborations rather than interventions. By doing this, narrative therapists promote the development of narrations that counter the reifications of symptoms and pathologies and the metanarratives of passivity and disempowerment of typical medical


85 and deterministic approaches to counseling. Postmodern therapists offer an external help and dialogue that aims at bringing awareness on power differentials and active participation in the creation of knowledge about the client’s presenting concerns. It follows that any knowledge created in counseling is a relational achievement, which the participants owns as much as the supposed expert. Postmodern counseling therefore takes a clear distance from the paternalistic coaching of cognitive therapy and the teaching-learning dynamics of cognitive-behaviorism and certain psychoanalysis. To an extent, counter-narratives give meanings to external help by enabling the professional to collaborate with the client in the difficult process of creating freedom and democracy. Similar to Freire’s praxis learning, the goal of counter-narratives, dialogue, and professional intervention is to “encourage participants to ‘rename’ the world” (Freire, 1973, p. 297). The reason for the above reflexive and critical comments is to point out some of the main narratives that dominate this narrative inquiry (assumptions of the research method will be addressed in the section on “Research Limitation and Heuristics”). Reflexivity is the first step toward the elaboration of counter-narratives about refugees and, especially, toward the creation of possibilities, which after all are the main goal of narrative therapy (Alvesson & Skldberg, 2000; Anderson, 1997). It is in fact assumed that, by invoking masterand meta-narratives, individuals and communities will increase their awareness of them and, therefore, they will be able to potentially develop counter-narratives for liberating and emancipating agendas (Bamberg, 2004).However noble this goal may seem, the narrative of the savior is dangerous. White points to the risk of recycling certain kinds of “structuralist/humanistic psychological practice. and discourses of


86 psychological emancipation” into narrative therapy (White, 1997, p. 217). Narrative therapists or researchers (or, paraphrasing George Kelly’s metaphor of people as “narrative” scientists) do not instill change in the narrative style and content of the teller. In fact, the process of re-authoring (White & Epston, 1990) and the restoration of “agency to the author of a narrative” (Parker, 2005, p. 72) are not external performances by the expert for the needy. Instead, they are collaborations and exchanges, in which the supposed expert or the researcher creates the conditions for narratives to be formulated and to emerge in a way that is functional and empowering for the author. To be an expert or a researcher is neither a stable identities nor roles: they are social and relational position that regulates interactions within specific contexts (Harr & Moghaddam, 2004). Although narrative-postmodern therapy recognize the role of oppressing discourses and practices as well as the importance of countering mainstream dominating knowledge and power games (Anderson, 1997), it is not the therapist’s role to teach clients the process of defying subjugating forces so that individuals can become free to be who they really are. The discourses on authenticity and its genuine expression, progress, and emancipation are typical “meta-narratives of modernity” (Kvale, 2003, p. 590). They perpetuate the image of Self and ideas as stable, ahistorical, and individualistic entities that can be accessed and ontologically known if researchers, therapists, or even consumer specialists find the right keys to them (Cushman, 1995). If we endorse the position described above, it follows that the focus on counter-narratives does not aspire to liberationist theories, but to the creation of viable, empowering, and pro-agency narratives that will contribute to the elaboration of possibility and change. Highlighting dominant discourses and taken-for-granted


87 knowledge is a first step toward understanding the participants’ positions within their stories as well as within pre-existing socio-cultural orders and styles of interpretation. In virtue of their tendency to normalize, masterand meta-narratives “constrain and delineate the agency of subjects, reducing the range of their actions” and creative potentials (Bamberg, 2004, p. 6). On the other had, dominant narratives also “give guidance and direction to the everyday action of subjects. speakers never totally step outside the dominating framework of the master narrative” (ibid., p. 7). My expectation is not to find revolutionary counter narratives in a single, coherent story, but, instead, to collect moments and attempts of counter narratives along simultaneous story lines. In fact, the point of exploring the participants’ counter-narratives is not to understand their participation in a cultural revolution, but to see how individuals employ counter-narratives to claim who they are and can be as well as what home and return are and can be. Metanarratives are not avoidable: individuals who develop counter-narratives are both opposed and complicit to dominant narratives. However, in the constant interplay between the formulation of narratives of pro-activity and passivity or normality and change, discourses of subjectivities as empowered agents can develop. To conclude, counter-narratives disrupt the prescribe orders of meta-narratives. They challenge the present regime of power and its reifications of subject positions, thus engaging in a project of epistemological democratization that questions the constitutive otherness (Cahoone, 1996) of imposed marginalizations and dichotomies. For instance, “both Foucault and Boas realized that this could only be achieved if such Others as ‘homosexuals’ and ‘primitives’ ceased to be produced as reified sites of difference”


88 (Bunzl, 2004, p. 440). In the context of this research, in order to fully understand narratives from a postmodern perspective, processes of storytelling need to be considered as social achievements. Through employing narratives within social contexts, subjectivities are developed and positions are gained (from here, the expression of narratives as social achievements or relational performances) in relations to a grand-narrative of otherness. In other words, people define themselves and their views of home, return, and agency also in relation to what or who they are not. As it will be explored in the Data Analysis section, when this constitutive otherness is embedded into a market ideology (Kvale, 1995), then it creates commodities out of reifications and, therefore, supposed statuses of being. In such reifying context, the relational positions that constitute the speaker’s narratives and possibilities can only develop along lines of opposition and exclusion. Authorship and Agency As I have noted, the main goal of narrative therapy is to create the conditions for clients to re-author the narratives of their lives (White & Epston, 1990). Similarly, the main goal of this dissertation is to explore how such restoration of agency has happened or may happen in the light of narratives and constructions of identity, home, and return. The narrative emphasis on authorship combines with the postmodern death of the author in underscoring the importance of the social context, cultural discourses, and relations that justify a particular way of constructing, ordering, and sharing that cannot be considered just personal. As a consequence, agency does not belong to the individual, who either does or does not own it. Like a text, agency develops in the relations among authors, readers, cultures, and agendas as well as among the said, the not-said, and the counter-narrated. Therefore, the text loses the sharp boundaries that structuralist and


89 modernist approaches to science built up to promote certain political power, control, and morality (Foucault, 1975/1979; 1982/1984). Agency itself is a social construction that comes from and, at the same time, creates metaand master-narratives of knowledge and possibility. Once agency is seen and understood within the complex web of language-based and political relations, which may partially be out of the control of the research participants, then subjects can start re-interpreting and re-authoring the narratives that, previously, had them as passive and inert victims of the circumstances. Such a postmodern turn toward the empowerment of subjectivities underscores the postmodern stress on the local context and present time in which interpretations are achieved. The reader constructs the text in the same way that the observer creates a reality: “everything is autobiographical” (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 180; Blaise, 1993) and the world becomes a reflexive representation of positions and perspectives. Postmodernism acknowledges the creativity of the individual, but, differently from romantic and humanist interpretations, it suggests that creativity and dynamics of the self are socially and relationally developed and constrained by existing meta-narratives. In this sense, “postmodernism begins when ‘deep meaning’ and the ‘author’s intention’ recede, and readers are invited to engage in the free play of the very forms that once held the sense of the real and rational in place” (Gergen, 1991, p. 129). 3.3 The Methodology of This Study 3.3.1 Integrating Narrative Approaches and Postmodern Philosophies Coming from a counseling background, the particular narrative approach of this study emphasizes the role that acts of telling have in promoting personal awareness and psychological change. From a narrative-postmodern counseling perspective (Anderson, 1997; Shotter, 1993), change is a relational process that is

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90 inherent in dialogue: change is the telling and retelling of familiar stories; it is the redescriptions that accrue through conversation; it is the different meanings that are conferred on past, present, and imagined future events and experiences. Change becomes developing future selves. What become important in therapy are the individuals’ first-person narratives. (Anderson, 1997, p. 233) The purpose of narrative therapy is to promote transformations of clients’ self-identities in order to develop functional interpretations of their lives in empowering first-person and, at the same time, social and contextual accounts (McLeod, 1999; Shotter, 1993). By reconstructing or re-authoring different aspects of their lives and identities, clients allow future possibilities for ways of being and acting. In the same line, the narrative research approach here adopted aims at exploring and understanding how narratives inform and shape the participants’ identities and agency, especially in regard to their future possibilities for “inventing” home and return as socially constructed realities of their life contexts. Every form of qualitative analysis implies reductions and syntheses of the original data (Giorgi, 1985). Reductions start in the very moment in which researchers and participants interact and, at the same time, narratives or data are produced. Even before, with the process of telling in which the narrator needs to select what and how to say the story. When working from a narrative perspective, it is also important to underscore that reductions are part of every moment of the research: they are hermeneutically inevitable, unless we assume the existence of an ontological, absolute, and directly observable reality. Instead, if we believe that representations are neither true nor false, but situated “in the culture, institutions, and political ambience of the representor. then we must be prepared to accept the fact that a representation is eo ipso implicated, intertwined, embedded, interwoven with a great many other things” (Said, 1979, p. 272-273).

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91 The researcher follows an agenda according to which specific readings are performed (i.e., the research questions and outcomes) and main themes are identified within and among interviews. Themes are part of the ongoing narrative flow and, to the extent of the feasible, they are not isolated from the context in which they are and were created. At the same time, themes respond to and inform different levels of analysis (personal, social, cultural, and political) that are relevant to the research question. These themes are analyzed, interpreted, and presented according to their ability to increase our understanding of the refugees’ experiences of themselves, their homes, and the possibility of returning to the country they flew from. Following this initial thematic analysis, the next step of the psychotherapeutic interpretation of narrative inquiry is to narrate the clients’ stories in a way in which they will re-author their accounts. From the standpoint of narrative counseling, the purpose of therapy is to create the conditions for the transformation of identity narratives in order to promote new vistas of the clients’ lives and to access multiple possibilities by promoting agency or a sense of self-agency. Different from the counseling setting, in a research context, transformations of self-identities, subjectivities, and positions occur in the analysis of narratives from the very perspective of the research questions, rather than in the ongoing interaction with clients. Possibilities and contexts for these narrative transformations and evolutions are explored. In a typical postmodern conceptualization of the author, the creative role of researchers, participants, and narratives comes in the forefront. In this sense, the scientist creates the object of knowledge as the result of the method of observation and analysis that was chosen and not as the result of the

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92 illusionary quest for objectivity related to the positivistic belief that the object determines the method (Weber, 1906/1949). The re-authoring stage of narrative analysis is a co-construction of the research’s subjectivities and questions, which are aimed at providing a better understanding of the very conditions that can provide better understandings of the participants’ narration on their lives, identities, possibilities and access. The basic assumption, here, is that by allowing room and creating the conditions for new narratives, people will eventually change their social positionings and their narratives on themselves, their home, and their return. This can be a first step toward fully endorsing a sense of empowerment and agency that is usually considered the final goal of humanitarian interventions with refugees (UNHCR, 2001). This dissertation is not the place for such an ambitious topic, which I leave for future political and humanitarian interventions in the field. Nonetheless, I believe that, if a field intervention aspires to agendas and modalities that come from the people, rather than being imposed on them, then such intervention needs to be modulated by proper understandings of narratives, relations, and self-perceptions. In this dissertation, the trail chosen to approach there areas of inquiry are the refugees’ narratives on identity, home, and return. The following guidelines for the analysis of narratives integrate Foucauldian Discourse Analysis (FDA) as described by Willig (2001) with the narrative interpretations and applications of Riessman (1993; 2002a; 2002b; 2004), Daiute & Lightfoot (2004), Holstein & Gubrium (2000), Bamberg (2004), Coffey & Atkinson (1997), and Chandler, Lalonde, & Teucher (2004). It is important to bear in mind that the steps are meant to orient rather than prescribe and limit the analysis of data. This means

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93 that guidelines can be changed in their procedure and sequence according to the research needs and interests. In addition, the stages of analysis sometimes overlap: it will be the research’s role to choose when and where to analyze certain interview sections more in depth in order to better answer the research questions. The data analysis develops along four main moments and two main realms, represented by the big ovals of Figure 3-2. The realms are that of the single participant, whose interview will be analyzed individually, and that of the group of participants, in which the analysis will be based on the comparison of interviews. Both realms are influenced by four major context-based relations with: The context of the interview, which focuses on how the data was collected and how the differences between interviewer and interviewee (e.g., gender, age, immigration status, nationality, etc.) may have contributed to the specific narrative formulations; The socio-cultural context of values and social constructions, including granted definitions (like those of refugees, Kosovo, Albanians, Serbian, Yugoslavian, research, confidentiality, etc.); The political aspects of the refugees’ life, mainly including their rights, political identifications and participation in the home and host country; The research agenda, which shapes the interview and data production in the light of the specific research questions and outcomes (e.g., focus on identity, home and return in order to understand possibilities and sense of agency and empowerment; field project and grant proposal). These relations represent contexts and backgrounds against which narratives will emerge and realities will be constructed. To an extent, they correspond to grounded theory’s sensitizing concepts, even if the relations of the current approach are more social and cultural than personal. 3.3.2 Participants Seven participants were interviewed during October 2004 and February 2005. All participants lived in the Boston area and they all came as refugees or forced migrants to

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94 the USA. All interviewees came to the country in 1998 and 1999, during the maximum escalation of military tension in Kosovo. Most interviewees said they came legally in the country, holding a green-card, asylum visa, or student visa. One participant was in the process of waiting to have an asylum-seeker visa and one was an undocumented immigrant. The age of the participants varied from 20 to 47. Four interviewees were males and three females. When asked where they would have like to settle in the United States, out of the seven participants of this study, four chose Boston because of the presence of relatives or acquaintances in the area. The remaining three were attracted to Massachusetts’ rich offer of university programs and specialized jobs in constructions, import-export with Albania, and bio-technology. 3.3.3 Data Collection The Challenge of Gaining Access to the Refugee Community and Sampling In the research design, it was anticipated that data was going to be collected from 6 to 8 refugees. Most interviews were rich and complex. To my surprise, most participants were able to fully address the research questions, which all interviewees found very interesting and engaging. Nonetheless, one of the most complex and delicate tasks of this study has been to recruit participants. Several aspects may have contributed to the experienced difficulty in establishing contacts and, eventually, interviewing Kosovarian refugees: my newness in the greater Boston area and the related limitations of my social capital; the delicacy of the topic; my gender and age; and my Italian origin. The context of the Boston area and its incredible number of universities and colleges did not facilitate my networking. Humanitarian organizations that work with migrants and refugees were clearly tired of receiving requests for research participants.

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95 Governmental and non-governmental associations referred me one to the other; eventually, I decided to give up. I therefore contacted Kosovarian and Albanian organizations in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, and they were somehow able to provide me with some contacts. In this way I found my first interviewee, but she did not have any contact with other Kosovarians in the area. At that point, I decided to take a more aggressive style: every time I heard people talking a language that resembled Albanian or Serbian, I asked them from where they came. This turned out to be a quite successful strategy, mainly because I could identify some bars and restaurants in which Albanians or people from the former-Yugoslavia gathered. One of the problems of this recruiting strategy was that the interviewee whom I met in bars and restaurants were middle-age men. Nonetheless, I found two more participants. In the attempt to target a more mixed population, I contacted a number of Albanian churches and mosques. I received no answer from Islamic religious centers and I later learnt that very few Kosovarian attend such centers in the Boston area. Instead, the Sunday mass is an important gathering event even for people who are not Christian-Orthodox. Some of the main reasons for this get-together of Kosovarian refugees is that they can meet old and new friends and they can speak with fellows Kosovarians using their first language. I am grateful to the Albanian Christian-Orthodox priests, who allowed me to introduce my study and the quest for participants during mass on three Sundays and to leave flyers (see Appendix) at the church entrance. In this way, I was able to recruit three more participants

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96 Another strategy was to become a member of “MassAlbanians”, a group for mainly young and educated people who speak Albanian. After introducing myself and my agenda to the group, I received a number of emails and, eventually, I met my last interviewee. Due to the difficulty in accessing the Kosovarian refugee community in Boston, there was no specific strategy followed in the sampling process. The requirements of sampling were quite simple: having left Kosovo because of violence, war, or poor social or economic conditions (see flyer in the appendix) and a level of spoken English good enough as to have a conversation. During the initial contact with participants, I asked them whether they identified themselves as a refugee. All participants considered themselves as fitting within such social categorization. Data Collection Following a brief introduction of the research purpose and the explanation and signature of the Informed Consent, participants were openly invited to share their views of themselves as refugees. Because the research title and goals concern refugees, I did not think that asking questions with the word “refugee” in it limited the narrative freedom of the interviewees. Usually, people were eager to tell their story and, surprisingly, there was no hesitation in front of the difficult question that opened the interview: “Can you please tell me how you see yourself as a refugee?” Interviews were recorded and they lasted between 50 and 100 minutes. Throughout the interview, my role was that of the active listener, with the only agenda of keeping participants focused on their answer and of providing them with the reassuring message of being heard and understood. At times, I provided empathic responses to the participants, especially when they shared touching or poignant

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97 experiences of their life. Another frequent intervention was to clarify meanings, especially in the light of the fact that neither the participants nor the interviewer were native English-speaker. 3.3.4 Transcriptions Interviews were transcribed by the principal investigator following Silverman’s transcription conventions (1997, p. 254), which is reported in the Appendix. Silverman’s guide is a good compromise between simplicity and effectiveness (without being too time-consuming and interrupting too much the flow of the narrative) in the important process of recording no-verbal communication. Pauses were transcribed with just approximate indications of their time length, simply in order to underscore silences that were normal (between 0.5 and 2 seconds) and very long (more than 3 seconds). A worth-mentioning limitation of transcribing the verbal communication, in contrast with having video recordings, was related to the fact that interviews were in English, a second language for both participants and interviewer. In order to collect as much information as possible even from words or linguistic expressions that were meaningful for the interaction, but grammatically undecipherable, I kept notes during the interview of important information that extended beyond verbal communication. My notes concerned especially emotional expressions as well as information that were told outside the interview and that I considered meaningful. In these cases, I asked the participant for his or her oral permission to use that information for research purposes. 3.3.5 Ethical Concerns Due to the delicacy of the topic and the interviewees’ general expectation that they had to talk about their traumatic experiences, the research raised some clear ethical questions, both in terms of the psychological wellbeing of the participants and of the risk

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98 of making the interview a hit & run experience for them. In order to avoid such experiences of exploitation in the participants, I decided to deepen my relationship with the interviewees, so that the process could become as mutual as possible. Email exchanges and phone conversations were favorite means used to familiarize the potential participants with the research project. Phone or email contacts also followed all interviews contributing to establish a certain sense of continuity and, especially, care for the participants. I am aware of the potential risks that can be related to rapid and unmediated disclosure of traumatic experiences, especially in those cases in which people never talked about their most difficult memories or in cases in which participants presented high levels of stress related to their current situation, especially in its legal and economic aspects. In one case, one participant was encouraged to seek counseling and was provided with referrals to therapists and assistance organizations that had direct experience in working with refugees’ mental health issues. In another case, one participant was provided with information about a local organization that provided pro-bono legal service to immigrants. During the interviews, the use of empathic skills served the purpose of mediating the emotional impact of painful memories related to the participants’ narratives. In the light of my counseling background and professional identity, but especially for my position as an inquirer genuinely interested in learning from my interviewees, I did not want to fully distance myself from the narratives and experiences of the participants. These considerations created the ethical context of the research interactions, in which I sought the appropriateness and exhaustiveness of the responses and, at the same time, I

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99 look after the participants’ needs of appropriate psychosocial support (Mekki-Berrada, Rousseau, & Bertot, 2001). 3.3.6 Validity Validity in Qualitative Research “What does it mean in narrative research to do justice to someone’s narrative account?”, Catherine Riessman asks in one of her most recent works (Riessman, 2002a, p. 207). In qualitative research, the question of validity develops along lines that are far from the traditional view of validity as “the degree to which inferences reflect the actual state of affairs” (Cook & Campbell, 1979). Truth and objectivity are contextualized and humanized: they are seen as the product of interactions among subjectivities that, by relating to each other, construct the reality itself with which they are dealing. Relationships develop in a context of preexisting and ever-changing dynamics in which cultures, political positions, agendas, functions, and identities come into play to inform ongoing co-constructions of relational realities (Gergen, 1991). The narrative focus on language and relations was well described by Polany almost fifty years ago: As human beings, we must inevitably see the universe from a centre lying within ourselves and speak about it in terms of a human language shaped by the exigencies of human intercourse. Any attempt rigorously to eliminate our human perspective from our picture of the world must lead to absurdity. (Polanyi, 1958, p. 3) The postmodern “death of the author” addresses the irreducible distance between the original message the author intended to issue and its phenomenological presence to the reader. Once the author is dead and the ideas of true reality and authenticity rejected in virtue of the constructing roles of interpretations and social constructions, the concept of validity finds its own validation in the practice and pragmatic of knowledge (Polkinghorne, 1992). Rather than an a priori set of criteria about good science and

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100 psychotherapy (Walsh, 2004), postmodern validity develops from the relationship between what is valid for the researcher and what is valid for the Other. As a consequence, “valid” does not refer to empirical or finalistic aspects of knowledge, which would imply a behaviorist approach on outcomes, but rather it means an agreement among the participants (i.e., the researcher and the Other), achieved through dialogue and collaboration (Scheurich, 1997). Madison (1988, p. 31) observes that the notion that one can ‘test’ interpretations and subject them to scrutiny in the light of the relevant evidence such that objective conclusions can be reached, is a purely utopian notion. This, however, does not mean that interpretation cannot be a rigorous (if not an exact) discipline. and that one cannot rationally evaluate interpretations. Many researchers have come up with an array of criteria to be used to justify and give authority to knowledge claims. Kvale (1996) considers validity to include communicability, ecological fit, and pragmatic validity. Other criteria for “good science” found in the literature are: internal coherence of the interpretation (its harmony with the conceptual whole that it serves), comprehensiveness (its capacity to account for the breadth of available data), contexuality (its ability to retain sensibility within the context from which the work derives), agreement (its articulation with previous knowledge, accounting for, or extending that which was previously known), and suggestiveness (its “fertility” in relation to stimulating further inquiry or research). In another attempt to translate positivist research criteria into the qualitative realm, Lincoln and Guba (2000) proposed a new terminology, which is meant to soften the hard-core expectations of quantitative approaches. “Credibility” is said to correspond to internal validity, “transferability” to external validity or generalizability, “dependability” to reliability, and “confirmability” to objectivity. In response to these attempts to bring the quantitative language into qualitative research, Ian Parker (2005, p. 136-137) highlights three main

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101 epistemological positions that constitute the qualitative paradigmatic framing and that would be inappropriate for quantitative studies: “‘objectivity’ as something that is constructed. ‘validity’ as resting on the mistaken view that different ways of representing phenomena will necessarily be representing the same thing. [and] ‘reliability’ as [not] taking for granted that our objects of study remain stable over time rather being liable to change”. However we label them, different strategies to achieve validity, such as triangulation, member checking, credibility, coherence, grounding, etc., are efforts to develop rules and norms that transcend any specific research project. Validity becomes an attempt to impose a certain authority or truth over the reader in order to persuade her or him of the trustworthiness and verisimilitude of the research methodology and results. Lincoln and Denzin (1998, p. 415) provocatively ask “what do we do with validity once we have met poststructuralism? Several answers are suggested. They all turn back to on the crisis of representation”. The first answer to this question is political, as it refers to one of the most prominent themes of postmodern, poststructuralist, and postcolonial epistemologies: the challenge to authority, to the idea that there is a better knowledge that can be imposed on the ignorant or novice. The postmodern focus is on the meanings of power and superiority that underlie the quest for validity. Similarly, Denzin (1997) suggests that the word “validity” should be substituted by “authority” and its interpretation should be made dependant upon the specific audience (i.e., researchers, participants, readers, scientific field) that enjoys and co-constructs the research. Such authority implies power differential and moral judgment, leading to a science that separates between expert and needy people. The risk here is the same as in counseling

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102 and humanitarian interventions that lead, coach, help, teach: they are unidirectional and they run the serious risk of proposing solutions and knowledge that do not belong to the people and their contexts. Even when such solutions are accepted, clients or beneficiaries will implement them more because of the expert’s authority than because of having reached a point in which people sense they own the solution. In counseling, this phenomenon is well-known to therapist as the tendency to quick fix or to disclose insights that clients may not be ready to accept yet. The risk here is to seriously limit efficacy. In a similar fashion, when the care of displaced populations takes the relational style of unidirectional interventions based on authority – including discourses on validity or trustworthiness of a research –, then the risk is that of reproducing abusive dynamics of power and exploitation, like the expert versus the novice, the advanced versus the primitive, or the North versus the South of the world. Validity cannot lie outside the local context of a research; criteria for scientific quality cannot aspire to dimensions of truth and reality that are isolated, ahistorical, and absolute. Foucault proposes “a genealogy of values, morality, asceticism, and knowledge that will never confuse itself with a quest for their ‘origins’, will never neglect as inaccessible the vicissitudes of history. On the contrary, it will cultivate the details and accidents that accompany every beginning. It will not be reticent. in allowing time for these elements to escape from a labyrinth where no truth had ever detained them” (Foucault, 1977/1984, p. 80). Foucault’s discourse on genealogy is related to an increased interest in power, which creates the conditions for knowledge and, at the same time, makes knowledge possible. In this sense, Foucalt’s Discipline and punish (1975/1979)

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103 created the conditions for radical reforms of institutional psychiatric care in France and Italy (Gemignani & Giliberto, 2005). Validity of This Study In order to address the topic of this dissertation’s validity, it is important to underscore again the counseling and therapeutic background of this study, which is mainly informed by narrative-postmoderrn psychology (Anderson, 1997; Bruner, 1986; White & Epston, 1990). Narrative therapists employ an epistemological stance with their clients that is usually identified as the not-knowing approach (Anderson & Goolishian, 1992). The general idea is that therapists should learn from and clinically use the language and narratives of clients, rather than trying to impose preconceived therapeutic molds. The not-knowing stance provides a model for validity in qualitative research that, to an extent, mirrors some of the previous formulations of qualitative validity, such as reflexivity and bracketing (Jankowski, Clark, & Ivey, 2000). To the extent of the feasible, researchers and therapists want to avoid the position of the expert, which may prevent texts from being expresses and heard. At this point, the balance is between an ontological position in which the text provides true and genuine information that can be accessed by the research and the radical, solipsistic position in which reality or data is completely invented by the subject. Between these two opposite epistemological conceptualizations of reality, the researcher’s subjectivity has a critical role in generating, inquiring, selecting, analyzing, and presenting narratives. Whereas, on the one side, there is no objective saying, on the other hand, the researcher should not “put the personal self so deeply back into the text that it completely dominates, so that the work becomes

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104 narcissistic and egotistical”(Bruner, 1993, p. 6). In between the two epistemological extremes mentioned above, researchers face the complexity and indeterminacies in their conclusions – resisting the academic pull toward a ‘simple’, consistent theory. It means not looking away from aspects of the self and power in the research relationship that limit understand and reproduce social inequalities. Finally, it means positioning ourselves in our work as sentient beings. (Riessman, 2002a, p. 207). Narrative researchers are therefore invited to be active parts of the research process, to bring themselves into their work in order to enrich it by illustrating the inevitable positions that the different subjectivities engage in. The not-knowing position is useful, in this regard, in helping researchers find a balance between including themselves “responsibly and skillfully, not confessionally” (Riessman, 2002a, p. 209): by refusing the top-down, deductive approach of the expert, narrative researchers create the conditions for open collaborations between the narratives of the investigators and the participants. These collaborations underscore the relational character of narrative research and the importance of context – cultural, historical, social, political – in the creation and analysis of narratives. By pointing out the processes through which metanarrative and socio-cultural orders are maintained and endorsed, this research seeks validation in its grounding in the field and in its pragmatic applications as well as in the promotion of possibilities and epistemological democratization (Foucault, 1978). The pragmatic validity of this research lies in its ability to use its knowledge and conclusions in a functional way. Following Lincoln and Denzin (1998, p. 415), this dissertation can be considered “a good text” in the moment in which it “invokes commitments” to “shape the emergent political conditions” and in the moment in which the research questions will find one or more

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105 answers that will be able to “work their ways in the concrete lives of interacting individuals”. In a postmodern context, meanings and expectations are always language-based and relational achievement. Poststructuralist and constructionist epistemic approaches invite authors and readers to see themselves as part of the social contexts in which science is practiced and knowledge is produced. Both authors and readers own the scientific process, participate in its co-construction, and share responsibility in the development and acceptance of knowledge (McNamee & Gergen, 1999). The reader is an agent of the text (Bruner, 1986): by interpreting a text, critical readers contribute to its “makings” (Riessman, 2002, p. 227) that develop according to the readers’ interests, meanings, needs, expectations, agendas, relations, and contexts. I n such relational and located approach to knowledge, validity assumes a connotation that is more pragmatic than conceptual: The truth of an answer to the research question is secondary to its usefulness to readers and scientific audience. To say that usefulness is more relevant to the reader than truth provides just a partial answer to the question of what make a research valid. Scientific projects create conversational opportunities that facilitate our understanding and acting in a world of ever changing complexity: it is indeed in such complexity of judgments and opportunities that validity lays like a linguistic process, rather than a source of reality. The Option of Member-Checking The original research design of this dissertation included a second interview with the participants in order to increase validity by member-checking and by creating a further relational context in which data can be generated, thoughts can be made public, ideas and emotions can be compared, and positions clarified. Member checking is

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106 probably one of the most common and accepted strategies to ensure validity to a research. By checking with the participants about the truthfulness of observations and conclusions, researchers aim at gaining the interviewee’s consensus on the study’s subjects. However, in the narrative-postmodern move from subject to subjectivities and from ontological to relational, hypothetical, and contextual truths, reality constructions are socio-cultural process that cannot be comprised within the argument on internal or external validity (Talburt, 2004). The matter of whether the study accurately answers the research question in is not found in the investigators’ ability to “portray the study’s subject as they would portray themselves” (Britzman, 1995, p. 233). Instead, an answer (and not the answer) is found in the text itself as readers approach it within a local context of languages, meanings, and relations. From a post-structuralist perspective, the meanings of a text – including its validity – transcend the product or performance of the author in order to embrace relational and language-based formulations and co-constructions by readers. Sparkes (1998) maintains that member checking should not be considered a validation strategy based on the assumption that, if qualitative research acknowledges multiple realities, nobody can be regarded as true knower. Coherently with the poststructuralist idea of the “dead author”, participants are not primary sources of data. The text, instead, is seen as generated in the interactions among all the readers of the research, together with languages and contexts as background, omnipresent protagonists. Following the above consideration, the option of member checking was dropped throughout the study. Although member-checking would have been a fruitful source of more data, it would not have add validity to the research findings in terms of the

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107 participants’ agreement with them. The further data that could have been collected, nonetheless, would have provided the occasion for richer interpretations, including the possibility to increasing the complexity of the research. 3.3.7 Description of the methodology and analysis Figure 3-2. Steps of the data analysis

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108 Stage 1: Identification and Elaboration of Narratives. After having reviewed in the introductory chapter the four research contexts that are likely to influence the data collections and analysis, the attention focuses on constructions, narratives, and relations that create and define the research topics. Participants will construct identity, home, and return in different ways throughout the same interview. After having highlighted different interpretations of the same topic, they are now compared. For instance, home could be seen as the only site where participants were happy and could be happy again, and, at the same time, as a place of death and as a location that is gone forever because it changed too much. According to the attempt to avoid de-contextualizations of narratives (Mishler, 1986), constructions and meanings will not be grouped together in order to compound a cohesive narrative on the topic. Instead, narrative on the same topic will be compared trying to understand them in the context (i.e., point, sequence, time) of the interview and, especially, in the context of relations and positions that those narratives create. Themes, narratives styles, sequencing or plot of the narration, identified audiences, and social relations and positions are highlighted within the contexts of the interview, relations, and discourses. For instance, using the same example, when participants describe home as a place of happiness and/or death, it is important to explore the context of these constructions in terms of the interview sequence (what did they say before and after?) as well as the position or role that the specific description creates for the teller. For instance, the speaker may become a victim when relating home to death or a social advocate when talking about home as a place of beauty that can be reestablished again through political, social, and economic developments.

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109 Stage 2: Action Orientations, Positionings, and Social Achievements. The first step of the analysis underscored how, by providing meanings and narratives, participants promote specific views of themselves that, in their turn, create or endorse certain social positions and relations. One of the theoretical assumptions of this study is that different narratives fulfill meaningful agendas and purposes for the speaker as well as for the context of meta-narrative and pre-established socio-cultural orders and knowledge. The aim of this stage is to identity in what ways these constructions are important and what particular functions they may have for the teller. In addition, narratives and constructions are also analyzed according to their ability to create linguistic possibilities of relating to other constructions in the surrounding text and context. The focus is therefore on the plot and its supposed intentionality. Some basic questions of this stage could be: “What is gained from constructing the object in this particular way at this particular point of the text?” (Willig, 2001, p. 110); “Why did the speaker choose to employ such narratives on this topics?”; “Why is it important for the speaker to present the text (i.e., data, information, contents) in such way?; “Where is the narrative process leading the speaker to?” Because of the concern on functions and on narratives as social achievements that are developed within social interactions, during this stage the analysis looks outside the mere text in order to situate it within a social milieu. This means that, in this stage of the analysis, texts and discourses are expected to be openly embedded in the socio-cultural contexts of political games and power relations. Narratives start to be seen as action-oriented, proactive, and therefore functional to the participant individual and social group.

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110 This stage provides a clearer understanding of “what the various constructions of the discursive object are capable of achieving within the text” (ibid.). This moment of the analysis also leads to an initial sketch of narratives as social achievement, as postulated in the research theoretical framework. By sketching social interactions, pragmatic functions, and positionings, this step of the narrative inquiry also delineates some initial and interviewee-specific accounts on identity, home, return, and sense of agency and empowerment. In their elaboration of narratives and meanings, participants express critical thoughts and perceptions of freedom, agency, and empowerment that may eventually take to “opportunities for actions” (Willig, 2001, p. 111). In fact, discursive constructions of social positions contribute to a relational and cultural understanding of the participants’ sense of agency and, therefore, of their likelihood to play a proactive role in shaping their future lives. Agency is not related to one’s motivation or decision making, but to the relational context in which the person acts and growth out of possibilities and political discourses. To an extent, this is almost a counseling stage of the data analysis, in the sense that it asks individuals to consider the limitations of their own constructions and how these are meaningfully located within broader narratives and societal discourses. In other words, similarly to narrative therapy (White & Epston, 1990), this stage suggests a critical evaluation of the participants’ narrative repertoire in order to encompass their everyday experience, to analyze the limitations of specific narratives, and to explore alternative and larger plots or possibilities (Murray, 2003). Stage 3: Masterand Meta-Narratives. The next two sections address the social and relational aspect of the narratives as embedded in cultural and political contexts and agendas. In this regard, the key research

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111 goal of the last research stage is to understand when and how individuals engage in counter-narratives within the relational and cultural context of their lives. A way to answer these questions is to point out structures, contents, and contexts of narratives in order to underscore taken-for-granted knowledge and its normalizing influence in limiting individual and social possibilities. During this third phase, the analysis focuses on “the ways in which the represented world of characters and event sequences is drawn up. and on how speakers signal to their audience how they want to be understood” (Bamberg, 2004, p. 11). The next and fourth step will be to highlight how subjectivities position (and construct) themselves in the process of endorsing as well as countering masteror meta-narratives. Differently from the liberation approach of modern tradition, counter narratives will promote empowerment and agency by seeking out their collaborative and, at the same time, conflicting relation with master narratives. Postmodern science does not develop through revolutions and contrasts in which one position or method is assumed to be better than the other, but through open and respectful dialogues among the array of possible and convenient (i.e., functional) voices (Gergen, 1991, 2001). After the second stage of the data analysis has been completed for all the interviews, the focus goes to the group of interviews. Different narratives and positions are here compared and differentiated according to their function in the creation of the participants’ subjectivities, possibilities, and sense of agency and empowerment. In other words, the social positions that participants achieve through narratives are here compared among participants. It is here assumed that the participants’ ability to develop a sense of empowerment and agency are not individual or personality-based, but, instead, are the

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112 direct influence of masterand meta-narratives and of the different responses to them (including the ability to develop counter-narratives that will be explored in the next stage of the data analysis). At this point of the analysis, the narrative-postmodern challenge to the separation between individual and social domains of science and practice (Gergen 1999) is taken to its practical outcomes. Persons are not expected to act independently from the socio-cultural context of normalcy, of accepted knowledge and scientific methods. Even revolutions or paradigmatic changes happen within historical contexts that create the conditions for such changes (Kuhn, 1962). In the same way, individuals are submerged in masterand meta-narratives that enable and, at the same time, limit the participants’ narrative repertoire (Polkinghorne, 1988). By comparing common approaches and discourses, super-ordered structures of shared knowledge, actions, and implications stand out. Processes and instances of access and freedom, empowerment and discrimination underscore the presence of dominant knowledge and power structures, which are likely to have a direct effect on the refugees’ life in the host country. Narratives of identity, home, and return are explored for their creative power and the particular discursive or relational position their offer to the group of participants. Stage 4: Subjectivity and Counter-Narratives. As I mentioned previously, individuals are not victims of meta-narratives; postmodernism should be not considered a new form of social determinism. In the personal-social dynamic, the individual is placed and constructed within narratives of power and knowledge that create the person’s subjectivities and positions. Both terms are processes rather than entities and, as part of their becoming, they also face the possibility of developing counter-narratives. Counter-narratives are basically of two types: those that

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113 oppose grand-narratives and those that are untold, the hidden and silent voices that are frequent in context of social discrimination and power abuse. It is at the level of counter-narratives that narrative-postmodern analysis becomes a form of commitment and action research (Parker, 2005), “in which the internal system of any discourse and its relations to others is challenged. It alters, and so permits different spaces for maneuver and resistance” (Parker, 1992, p. 21). Besides ideologies of resistance and liberation, the most relevant postmodern reflection is, in my opinion, about the untold that represents the Other of every construction. The postmodern concepts of differance or constitutive otherness imply that the margin, the silenced, or the (almost) invisible is necessary to understand a text (i.e., a position, subjectivity, construction, etc). If agents of social change aspire to an epistemological democratization (Foucault, 1978), then it is in imposed definitions of an opposite otherness that counter-narratives become critical to understand narratives. Positions are achieved through discourses and narratives of inclusions as well as exclusions, especially when non-dominant groups are involved. The analysis of counter-narratives offers the possibility to understand the reifications that create specific meta-narratives of otherness and opposition (Bunzl, 2004). As a consequence, the constitutive otherness of grand-narratives informs the research about the participants’ possibility, access, and right to positions in which people can develop a sense of agency and empowerment.

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CHAPTER 4 DATA ANALYSIS: FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS 4.1 Findings The process of data analysis of this dissertation has been conceptualized in the previous chapter as developing along four stages and two main realms, one of single interview’s narratives and the other of group narratives. The idea of “group” is an attempt to place the research participants under the same label, “refugee”, which – as described in the introduction to the study – is problematic and biased. Nonetheless, it is of some comfort to know that all research participants voluntarily collaborated in a study on refugees and all of them identified themselves as such. To illustrate the four steps of the methodology, I will provide extracts from three participants. The analysis of the three examples and their narrative sequences will introduce the remaining two steps of the analysis, in which meta-narratives and acts of positioning will be drawn from all the interviews. The first step of the data analysis provides for the identification of narratives about the key terms of the research question: identity, home, and return. Narratives are highlighted within the text and the progression of the story (sequencing) is considered. This stage is a common part of the process of reading and underlying by which readers identify and link together key points and themes of a text. However, narratives are different from themes: they are more complex and they are always related to other narratives and the contexts in which they are developed. This means that, in this stage, 114

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115 the researcher will also focus on the potential links with the social and cultural contexts, including those that are not directly named in the interview. Once the research starts reading the second interview, she or he will inevitably notice common themes and relations among interviews. Even though the analysis of similar narratives will not take place until the third stage, my suggestion is for the inquirer to keep notes of them and to record his/her reflections as they arise throughout the reading and analyzing of data. The observations from this first step of the analysis do not need to be reported in the text, mainly because narratives cannot be fully understood without the second stage of the data analysis. In fact, in the second stage, the emphasis is on the psychological and relational functions of narratives, which are seen in the context of the relationship with the interviewer. At the same time, the focus is also on the relational positions and social achievements that tellers develop in the process of narrating. In fact, it is likely to expect that speakers chose to order and share their narratives in ways that reflect the relations between the author and the research. The main point of this stage is to create dynamics of narrating, so that stories can be seen as fulfilling specific agendas and creating specific worlds for the teller. The research question surrounds the interplay between four key foci and domains of the refugee experience: narrative identity, home, return, and sense of agency. As it appeared from the data analysis, the narratives of participants were interwoven with each other. Areas other than identity, home, return, and agency emerged from the data: topics such as cultural adjustment, experiences of discrimination, and relations with religion and family of origin, which could be related to the key terms of the research question.

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116 The concept of home led to the most enthusiast and committed responses among the participants. Home became the metaphorical space in which refugees felt comfortable enough as to address challenging topics, such as their views of themselves inside the victim/survivor dynamic or the possibility of return. As response to the general narrative question of “why was the story told that way?” (Riessman, 2002a, p. 218), narratives about home pointed out the power of this concept for social constructions of border crossing. In narrating home, the participants told stories that surrounded and elaborated their concepts of time and space. In this way, refugees achieved social positions that, typically, developed along constructions of here versus there. The “here versus there” is at the origin of powerful narratives that identify and construct dimensions of space and time, typically considered key for the organization of personal and social lives. For refugees, past and plural interpretations of home are major aspect of the “here versus there” narrative: Marco: so you said that Kosovo is still your first country Sergi: yes because I [was] born [there]! Understand me: your parents [are] Italian. You no forget (1) I never forget this here ::: you know why I no forget? Because I born! M: In what sense is this important for you? Sergi: I no return there: yes [it has been] many [years since I came] here. Why no return? I don’t forget my country. Do you know why? Because [of] my city::: (2) > because I lived together [with] people , those people [who] killed me and my family . How [can] I live together now? How I live together now and look [at people] in the face? M: You seem angry Sergi: yes! Because they [are] now friends, but this is not good, not true ! > I love to be face to face with my best friend. He called me many times here and I called him and I [was] talking with him about difficult reality there ( ) I love being ( ) He cried because he no look at me:::: I tell my best friend, “I am sorry man”. One time he looked [at] me after war: I [was] no dead,

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117 he cried and kissed me and, after that, when together with me he always looks at land [ground] I said, “why [do you] look [at] your land?” “Why no you look me in the eyes?” I understand his positions now: I am sorry he is my best friend, he is my brother::: I laugh and tell God “Thank you” because I am not looking for anybody to kill or steal [from] (1) no, nothing (1) I only [want to] help. Sergi employs a narrative of home that seems to define his position about past and poignant memories of home. Sergi narrates his anger and, at the same time, his wish to rebuild a relationships with home. His sense of himself here, in the host country, is significantly related to his relations with his significant others at home and the dreadful dynamics and betrayals of a civil war. He does not want to feel ashamed because of the war, in which, in the context of Kosovo, best friends and relatives faced each other in opposite frontlines. Friends and neighbors turned into enemies and became responsible for killings and violence. Nonetheless, Sergi wants to believe that people in war are different from people in the “normal” life, that they were following orders rather than expressing who they are. In giving a possibility to subject positions or relational identities other than those of the ex-soldier and the victim, he aspires to gain a position in which his friends and him will be able to “look at each other in the face”. Both Sergi and his best friend know this, but Sergi wants to forgive, to move on, and to help. The sequence of Sergi’s interview underlines his effort to create meaning in relations to his memories of home (father, war, friends) and his settlement in the host country. 1. I am a survivor 2. My father taught me to be a good man 3. My father taught me to love my land 4. I am a good man 5. My father was a beautiful man 6. I am a good man 7. My family is happy 8. They offered me poor jobs

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118 9. America is my second country 10. I work hard 11. Kosovo is my country 12. I’ll never go back 13. America open me the door 14. I’d go back just as a tourist 15. I lost everything in Kosovo 16. America is my new country 17. My family is here 18. Helping other refugees 19. Defending America from the enemy 20. I lost my house in Kosovo 21. Start again 22. This is my country now 23. My goals is to help people 24. I am a good man Later on in the interview, he states that he feels the need to help newcomers from Kosovo to settle in the Boston area. After all, Kosovo is still his place of origin, where he was born, where his significant others who died by the hand of Milosevi are now buried. Nonetheless, whereas Kosovo is the place where he was born, the USA are now his country. To state his belonging to his host country, Sergi uses categories and contexts of meanings that are significant and useful to him: he says that, if a foreign army invaded the USA, he would join the army to defend his country. The memories of war and of the history of the Balkans are alive in him. Sergi takes a further step, which is a strong referent to the history of Kosovo, a region that officially is still a region of Serbia: he specifies that, more than the USA, his country is Massachusetts. Eventually, Sergi’s account of home takes a clear position on Kosovo, a “home that is lost”, as the speaker says at the end of the interview. To take such position is, for Sergi, a statement of authority and clarity. After having acknowledged his past (memories of home

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119 relationships, feelings, experiences of war and survival), he comes to terms with it and he finally looks at his present subjectivity as a good man who wants to help his compatriots. The narrative of the “here versus there” emerges in all the interviews. From a broader, metanarrative perspective it could be seen as part of a larger narrative exclusion, which fulfills the function of identifying an “I” through a “non-I”. Not surprisingly, narratives of exclusion are powerful among individuals whose life has been deeply marked by a sense of impotence and helplessness in situations that could not be avoided. Another interviewee, whom I will identify as “Zoran”, presents a narrative of exclusion in relation to being a victim of war: “A soldier came and > and >:: h-h-h-he said to my mom ‘You have three minutes to leave the house (1). Then we will bomb it’ (2) :: < (h-h-h) we knew this was going to happen > (1) still:::: (3). (2) we had to leave the dog ::: it w:: (1) it was my dog” Either they left or they died as it happened to many of his friends. The family of this male interviewee in his late teens was lucky to be prepared. However, people can never be fully prepared for a situation like that. Life is at stake, even with a car, even when people reach the refugee camp. The context and possibility of security changed for Zoran: now, the memories of the lost home are his only place of safety. However, he experiences the normative pressure of looking at the present and future: this is what his significant others tell him to do. Parents, friends, educators avoid conversations about Kosovo and the experience of fleeing. He is told that he should forget his past in order to succeed in the present and future. However, these time dimensions lack security for him, as expressed in the painful voice of current PTSD symptoms. Besides the external

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120 pressure, Zoran achieves a position in which he can courageously initiate a dialogue between his two homes. Such dialogue is critical for the definition of his past and current life. The sequencing of Zoran’s text reflects the importance of narratives of home, which – as we said – relate and create for him positions on self and agency: 1. when I came here 2. how my family and I left Kosovo 3. how my life was at home 4. how my life is here 5. I was lucky to be able to leave 6. many of my friends died 7. I saw how they were shot 8. I cannot feel “completed” (something is missing in him) 9. my home is the USA now 10. I survived for the purpose of helping others 11. I need to focus on the future 12. I need to be better than most of my peers if I want to survive 13. I am afraid of dying; I have nightmares and flashbacks 14. I was lucky to survive (story of fleeing) 15. my mission is to help 16. my parents’ life is focused on the kids 17. two homes: emotions in Kosovo, future and success in the USA The sequencing of Zoran’s text reflects a clear pattern of opposition between his two home countries, Kosovo and the USA. First, he tells his story on Kosovo; then, he shares his U.S. experience and his need to find meaning in helping others. In a typical analytical move, Zoran presents a thesis (home in Kosovo), an anti-thesis (home in the USA), and a synthesis. That synthesis comes to a both here and there position regarding home. In exploring his sense of agency and freedom, Zoran creates the conditions for his departure from Kosovo: there was nothing he could do and his belief that his family and he were able to escape thanks to luck perpetuates a position of external locus of control. By presenting a narrative of impossibility, Zoran narrates his sense of agency in controlling his life, emotions, and actions.

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121 The speaker takes multiple positions about the “here” and the “there” and he uses them to define himself and his mission in this world. In his dance between interpretations of space and time, Zoran seems to provide an example of Heidegger’s idea of dwelling as the place in which to relate and to find answers to our being-in-the-world (Heidegger, 1971). Differently from the previous example of Sergi, the narrative of exclusion does not develop along personal lines (“I vs. them”), but along geographical and time dimensions. The “here vs. there” narrative style is less threatening that the “I vs. them”. Zoran acknowledges his losses (e.g., home, dog, or friends) and their symbolic meanings of emotional attachment to home, a place of safety and meaningful relations. At least three master-narratives emerge from Zoran’s discourse: the narratives of exclusion, power, and being a victim. Master and meta-narratives are addressed in steps 3 and 4 of the data analysis: The third stage begins when researchers wonder about agendas and positions in the broader relational context. In Zoran’s narratives, the “what he was told” (i.e., to focus on the future and forget his past) represent preexisting interpretations that are placed on the individual. Narrators express – sometimes critically, other times conventionally – these views in the process of storytelling and, therefore, selecting and ordering the available data. To an extent, this is the moment of the analysis in which researchers explore the normality of knowledge that emerge from the text, in order to point out assumptions, narrative styles, and themes that are common among interviews. Finally, the fourth stage involves the analysis of counter-narratives and counter-cultures that challenge metanarratives’ pre-existing knowledge and orders. Not all participants develop such narratives of empowerment and critical thinking. It is at the

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122 level of counter-narratives that narrative-postmodern analysis becomes a form of commitment and action research (Parker, 2005), “in which the internal system of any discourse and its relations to others is challenged. It alters, and so permits different spaces for maneuver and resistance” (Parker, 1992, p. 21). As I previously mentioned, all interviews present a meta-narrative of opposition, which take the forms of “I” versus “non-I”, “us” versus “them”, and/or “here” versus “there”. Implied in the narrative of opposition, there are different possibilities for the development of social positions and subjectivities, which develop along granted discourses of time (past, present, and future) and space (home and host countries). Metanarratives cannot be avoided and they represent the background against which self-definitions and positions become visible (Lyotard, 1979/1984). Metanarratives of opposition fulfill this agenda by creating and stating difference, which, after all, is the final point of every construction (Watzlawick, 1984). Nonetheless, there is a fine line between opposition or difference and exclusion, and some authors argue that actually such difference do not exist are one position presupposes the other (Negri & Hardt, 2000). In this regard, postmodern authors criticize the liberal or market ideology of exclusion, of winners versus losers, of the constant competition in order to prove yourself and be accepted (Jameson, 1991; Wise, 2000). “To construct an ‘us’, one has to be able to differentiate it from a ‘them’”: in this metanarrative, the challenge of the postmodern time is “how to establish this ‘us’ and ‘them’ discrimination in a way that is compatible with pluralist democracy” (Mouffe, 1994, p. 108). Similar to music, counter-points are necessary to build harmony (Brown & Gilligan, 1992). Nevertheless, counter-points are harmonic till they reach an extreme. If

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123 they do not endorse discourses of exclusion, then the dynamics between opposites and dichotomies that form part of the granted knowledge of our time may help the participants find different positions. The following extract from Zoran provides an example for such constructive positioning: Zoran: because I was born there > ::: you know :: I had some good experiences and bad experiences (0.5) > and it is just this sense of feeling at home (1) :::: I remember when I walked in to the garden of my house :::: < those overwhelming sense of emotions and memories come to you and I just :::: (1) > I cried (2). You miss it and you love that place and when you go there is there is nothing (2). :: but then : you, you : think of some things that I have over here (1) and :: and then : ((emotional tone of voice)), you, you are really confused (0.5): you don’t know w-w-which one is which : w-w-which life :: you know :: which life is pleasing you more. It is extremely difficult (1) I find it to be very difficult, you know = but the more I live in the States, the more I adapt to there way of life, I get more : sort of : attached to them (1) for some reason : and (1) but (1) there is always the sense of home : you know : (3) but : you know : I went there and is just ::: you know : (hhh) you have good and bad memories over there :: I :: (1) have seen some pretty >> pretty = bad things (1) you know (2) things that touched me, broke me and turned me down completely:: (2) as a man, you know ::: because we are raised up to be strong > men are :: you know :: men=we are not allow to cry in my society that’s a weakness for a men (1) we are always taught to hold everything in:: and, in the United States it is different: here it is OK for a man to cry (1) < it is all right > but always lived with the sense that the way that I was taught since being very little, the values of live that were taught by my family and passed down through generations.

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124 Zoran misses home and, at the same time, he knows that he would never be able to live at home again, unless some major economic and societal changes happen. From Zoran’s perspective, the social pressure to choose either one place or the other is a source of struggle and “confusion”. Both places have good and bad things. Zoran’s solution is to give two different functional meanings to the two homes: Kosovo is the place of emotions; the USA is the place of economic and professional success. Although this narrative is useful, in the long term this geographical opposition of human achievements is likely to be counterproductive. Endorsing an either/or dichotomy, Zoran puts at stake the possibility of developing a strong emotional attachment to the USA or professional success in Kosovo. His relational system becomes more rigid, which is another aspect of the metanarrative of opposition and exclusion. At the same time, the promotion of “either/or” dichotomies it is one the most salient assumptions in the mental health programs of humanitarian assistance for the return of refugees (Zetter, 1999). Another side of the metanarrative of exclusion is the focus on difference and foreigner. Migrants often feel second-class citizens, relegated to the invisible jobs that citizens do not want1. The metanarrative of exclusion construct the foreigner as enemy, who needs to be oppressed. For a refugee, a narrative of war is clearly a very delicate interpretation, conceptualization, and ordering of reality: From a psycho-social perspective, wars differ from natural and technological disasters because of the level of consciousness involved in armed conflict. There is a deliberate, conscious attempt by armed parties to subdue or inflict harm on individual members of opposition groups, to dominate or shatter the social structure of the “enemy”, and/or to capture, damage or destroy their material resources. Warring parties also take deliberate steps to defend themselves. (Beristain & Don, 1998, p. 10) 1 I invite the interested reader to watch the movie “Dirty Pretty Things” (2001) for a general view on invisible migrant populations.

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125 Ivana, a female asylum seeker from Kosovo, reports an array of instances in which she experienced discrimination: as an asylee (or asylum seeker), she depends on yearly assessments of her immigrant status. A narrative of precariousness and dependence highlights power differentials in a crucial area of her life such as her immigration status. To an extent, she is taking some initial steps toward defending herself through learning how to be assertive. Marco: do you know::: when this::: (1) uncertainty ::will be over? Ivana: I don’t know how to ask (1) > I don’t know who to ask to (1) ::: I asked INS ((U.S. Immigration department)) and they said, “Wait (1) we don’t know (1) it’s a backlog” so::: you don’t know where to ask for your rights (2) < if you are a green card holder, you can always ask for your own rights, > but me:: (1) (hh)I can’t, “So: you don’t like it in here, go back !” (1) you know, so::: (low and trembling tone of voice: it seems that the speaker is going to cry) M: So it seems like you don’t does it feel like being like a second class citizen sometime? I: Yeah! Like minority of minorities , I’d say (smiles) it does feel like :: like that. M: How is that? I: because you are not treated as they are treated as a whole, you know ::: like,: the same way as the people that work for you! Ivana’s status is importance: it encompasses meanings and possibilities that deeply influence her freedom. However, she has little or no control over her status: It depends on the national and international strategies of the U.S. government and the Department of Internal National Security2. It also depends on the “moods” of the local immigration 2 After September 11, the U.S. Department of Immigration became part of National Security. Such shift speaks by itself of the social and political image of foreigners under the current political and cultural scenario in the U.S.A.

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126 officer: “They can always tell me that things are just fine in Kosovo, and I can now go back because it is not dangerous any longer”. Like the other participants, Ivana struggles to define her space between the “here” and the “there”. However, different from the other participants, her process of “constitutive otherness” is poignant: she misses her family in Kosovo, but she is categorical in stating that she has no intention to go back and that “every young person in Kosovo wants to leave, because they know there is no future there”. In a certain sense, Ivana endorses the meta-narrative of exclusion that will not hesitate to send her home once the social context of Kosovo is fine in terms of security. Being this a very political judgment at the level of international politics, she feels that she is walking on eggshells. Her small contribution to the process is to promote to herself and to her audience the image of a Kosovo with no future, to where she cannot be sent back. Ivana: “I just left Kosovo (1) (sad tone of voice) >> thinking :: I had a life here < I don’t wanna think about that (1) that would make me really disappointed (2) I don’t know what’s going to happen to me if I go back there :::: I feel like a fish with no water, you know, completely lost.” The “neither here nor there” narrative evolves here into a narrative of differentiations from Albania, of questioning where home is. She does not connect with people at home (the relationships with them is interrupted) and she does not feel welcomed in the USA. She is lost. If she went back to Albania, she would feel like a fish with no water. She rather stays here because she already sacrificed a lot. During the interview, Ivana and Zoran achieved counter-narratives that challenged the orders that meta-narratives of opposition and exclusion imposed on them. The turning point for these interviews was a move toward assertive definitions of positions and subjectivities. Such move tended to question dichotomous definitions of place and identity. For instance, Ivana’s territory is represented in the following dialogue:

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127 Marco: What is home for you? Ivana: (she smiles) Home? Here :: this little house than I am renting now that’s ::: (1) > that’s home for me right now (2) I cannot:: (1) I don’t think ::: > I can’t call Albania home::: M: (hhh)Let me understand better ::: What is home for you ? (2) What does the word “home ” mean for you? Ivana: OK::: (1) that, I don’t have it! Then, you tell me, “Are you Albanian?” ((the speaker anticipates my question)) I say: “yes , I am Albanian!” but then I felt bad >because:: (1) > I am not living in Albania (1) < I am living here (1) and then, they ask me “Am I American?” < I say, “No, I’m not American!” And it’s > :::. when it comes out like that, that I am not American::: it’s, it’s is almost like, (assertive tone of voice) it’s like “I don’t want to be (1) (hhh)American” (1) I don’t know ::: my patience is running out (laughs) (1) waiting and waiting. (5) M: So, after getting your final status, that you will eventually get, will you... how will you call yourself? Ivana: (3) honestly::: (1) I, (hhh)I don’t know::: This passage exemplifies a narrative of limitation and territoriality with which she does not agree. In the territorialization of her place, she narrates an identity that, finally, can be both here and there. Actually, the speaker makes a further step and she goes beyond the dichotomy: she starts an empowering counter-narrative that rejects both the USA and Albania borders. She does not identify with either one or the other and in this move she becomes “meta-” in the sense of “above or beyond parties”. In a similar fashion, Zoran says, Zoran: I feel like I have two homes, you know : (1) > because:: I am sort of like :: I am a fifty-fifty person, “D’you know what I mean?” The emotional side (2) and the.. I think the emotional side (1), t-the:: emotional side of my brain is o-over there: (1) in Kosovo :: you know, you know :: (1) and then (1) > there is o-other (hhh)side ((hesitant, almost shaky tone of voice)), other brain that just wants me to (1) be here:: because, I am not satisfied enough when I go back there because I am used to live in this life you know ::: it’s ::: you know (1) > you know < it’s difficult, very difficult (2) I am having a hard time even explaining of what [

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128 M: ]You said that the side in Kosovo is the emotional side::: (1) how would you call the side in the United States? Zoran: It’s the positive optimistic side :: < It’s like the sense of being powerful and doing : good things > you know (1) being hopeful , so to speak (2) > having more hopes than::: than, I did back there: < everybody is so pessimistic over there. Everybody just hates life: “What is the hell of the meaning of life?” < I am sure that people until these days they are in their forties or sixties and still they have no idea what the meaning of live it is, and they are a lot of people they don’t know what the meaning of live is. I think that when you experience more things, and when (1), when y-you go to bigger countries and you meet important people ::: you, you begin to realize what the mission in your life is (2) I think I understand what it is, I can’t explain to other people but I think to me I understand what life is about and what life has to offer and what you need to take out of life. The literature about home and mental health of refugee conceptualizes four positions: pro-home, pro-host, neither here nor there, both here and there (Zetter, 1999). Ivana and Zoran state that they do not want to choose. Even if this position could fall into the “neither here nor there” category, their style is different from the one that is usually described in the literature. Their counter-narrative transcends the four alternatives by developing a position of empowerment: her “neither here nor there” is a rebellion to the supposed order of things. He conceptualizes a counter-narrative of inclusion, rather than exclusion, which, at the same time, is a narrative of differentiation. To be in touch with one’s emotions does not exclude being optimistic, successful, or even rational, unless of course you are a genuinely romantic person from the end of the twentieth century. Through different dialects, both Zoran and Ivana use the same language: they claim that they do not need to choose between some super-imposed dichotomy. Ivana directly attaches emotions to this counter-narrative: she feels empowered and assertive; she feels she has the right to state her frustration and “impatience”. As she is still exploring the sense and implication of this counter-narrative, she cannot answer the “normalizing” question of the interviewer (“how will you call yourself after you will have a final

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129 status?”), which is still at the level of the two places, the here and the there. The real therapeutic move of the speaker is to substitute the narrative of territoriality with a narrative of assertion and power. Rather than answering the question, she chooses not to answer or not to know. That knowledge does not belong to her: it is the knowledge of an old order of things, an old narration that has lost its context in the client’s storytelling. 4.2 Validity and Generalizability of This Study The trouble with generalizations is that they don’t apply to particulars (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p. 110) An important dilemma about the idiosyncrasy of the study topic arises as a basic epistemological question that involves the whole research process. Indeed, this question is necessarily linked to the discourse on research validity and generalizability. Using Amedeo Giorgi’s metaphor on validity and universality, we all have eyes and we all can talk about them. However, when it comes to the meanings we attach to somebody’s eyes, each of us develops personal interpretations that reflect personal ways of being in our local world and constructing life. Talking about eyes is both universal and idiosyncratic at the same time. Once the extremes are ruled out, the line between idiosyncrasy and universality becomes so fine that the two concepts are barely distinguishable. The experience of the transition can be indeed universal but is also inevitably idiosyncratic. Experiences and beings are personally lived yet universally communicated, understood, and constructed. Death, change, birth are examples of universals that, however, are empty labels or unrealistic dictionary definitions with no meanings attached to them. From a postmodern perspective, interpretations create reality and every construction, regardless of its assumed truth, is culturally bounded.

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130 One this research’s assumptions is that, by knowing the personal experience of some Kosovo refugees, it may be possible to depict general dynamics and aspects. These “general dynamics” are very different from universal truths. In the epistemological background of this study, universality is seen as contextualized to the historic moment and location as well as the cultural setting of an US major university. Universality becomes therefore doubtful and hypothetical, synonymous with common experience shared by all members of a specific group in a specific and local cultural context. About the validity of this study’s findings, it is important to acknowledge that the narrative-postmodern analysis of the participants’ stories was strongly influenced by the researcher’s interest on counter-discourses, on understanding how empowerment and freedom (including ethics as the perceived freedom to do something) may challenge normalizing and oppressing metanarratives. Other voices appear in the text, but they were partially and actively overlooked in order to match the research agenda. However, they were not neglected and they all came together to create points and counter-points. Using a music metaphor, the analysis looked at improvisations but, at the same time, any improvisation departs from a given set of notes, which in this case was the research agenda to focus on narratives that countered social and normalizing knowledge and power games. Talking about validity Guba and Lincoln ask: Are these findings sufficiently authentic (isomorphic to some reality, trustworthy, related to the way others construct their social worlds) that I may trust myself in acting on their implications? More to the point, would I feel secure about these findings to construct social policy or legislation based on them? (Guba & Lincoln, 2005, p. 205). In the context of this study, I would and I did use the findings of this study in counseling. The study confirmed the empowering and therapeutic power of questioning

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131 taken for granted knowledge, of placing it in a relational and local milieu, of exploring the implications and usefulness of alternative systems of constructions and narratives (Anderson, 1997; Kelly, 1955; White & Epston, 1990). In the narratives of the refugees I interviewed, realities and experiences were seen as epistemologies that created identities, places, and perceptions of agency and freedom. Cultural dichotomies and differences were not reified to promote a metanarratives of acculturation and assimilation along the lines of owning and becoming part of a culture or a community. Instead, by questioning assumed and normalizing praxes (Freire, 1973) and dichotomies (Hermans & Kempen, 1998; Gergen, 2000), the participants were able to transcend imposed attempts to territorialize their identities and places into a here as opposed to a there or a now as opposed to a past. They were able to make knowledge local and idiosyncratic so that it could be pragmatic and meaningful to them. This study is valid to the extent in which it contributes to create knowledge that is useful for social change and commitment (Lincoln & Denzin, 1998; Parker, 2005). A knowledge that, using Richardson’s metaphor of validity as a crystal (Richardson, 1997), reflects and refracts lights while, at once, growing and holding its structure. By underscoring and encouraging “counter-practices of authority that take the crisis of representation into account’ (Lather, 1993, p. 674), this study emphasizes the direct link about objectifications, observations, narratives, languages, and epistemologies. Knowledge is never isolated and never absolute. The discourse of knowledge brings “ethics and epistemologies together” (Lather, 1993, p. 686), continuing Foucault’s observation that ontological statuses (as those identified by reifying description of things are) should be considered epistemological criteria instead.

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132 As this research showed, knowledge is a process and it is neither internal nor social or cultural. Knowledge is a social achievement of the ongoing dynamic between the I and the Other (Gergen, 2000) that is reached through stories and narratives. For the research participants, such ongoing process of interpretation and relation directly constructed the conditions for agency and empowerment as well as for subjectivities, positions, and identities. Eventually, the most persuasive discourse on validity is the one that links the possibility by some participants to achieve and/or share counter-narratives of knowledge with their ethics. By doing so, participants were able to create a reality for themselves as participants of this research that bonded knowledge with power and possibility. Such understanding of validity is based on pragmatics, on reflexivity about the researcher’s agenda, and on the assumption that there is not single truth (Guba & Lincoln, 2005). 4.3 Limits of the Research This dissertation lies on a ground that is between narrative and discourse analysis. However, the latter is usually performed on natural-occurring or ecological texts, rather than on semi-structured interviews. For instance, typical discourse analysis engages discussion on mass media’s political agendas and constructions of reality. Nonetheless, the narrative-postmodern method of this dissertation addressed discursive characterizations of the participants’ stories, including a local analysis of metaand counter-narratives. This study’s data was collected through open-ended but pragmatic questions, which, to an extent, lead the interviewees’ narrations. Narrative aspects like sequencing or ordering are therefore strongly influenced by the target and frequency of the interviewer’s questions. Even if the interviewer’s presence is inevitable and every conversation is always based on the relations in which it occurs, the direct role of the

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133 researcher may at times have suggested the directions of the interview. To the extent that it was feasible, I kept a balance between the need to focus the conversation on the research topics and the need to allow and enable narratives, meanings, and foci to emerge spontaneously in the interviewing process. In addition, researchers deal with language-based narratives, typically spoken. This hinders the research’s ability to access no-verbal information. Due to time and geographic limitations, it was not always possible to establish meaningful relationships with the research collaborators. This might have fostered a sense of hit & run in the participants, who, consequently, may have felt exploited. Therefore, I did not attend to the power dynamics of interviews, which most likely influenced the narrative styles and content of the text. Participants who came from difficult and painstaking experiences would have needed more time and personal contact before disclosing private and potentially taxing conceptualizations, constructions, and narratives. This might have been particularly true for the most vulnerable participants, who, because of their experiences, gender, age, education, or current economic, legal, or social situations, might not have felt as talkative or eloquent. Their narratives might have been characterized by a low tellability or, at least, the text they presented might have undergone cautious levels of censorship. Habermas and Cooke (1999, p. 392) point out that a text, before being presented to an audience, “needs to satisfy certain criteria of relevance: it has to be worth telling” (italics in the original). The concept of “tellability” underscores the relational nature of narratives: it regards how feasible is for the author to express and, therefore, construct certain narratives in the context of the interview. This concept involves the interviewee’s

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134 choices as well as the social desirability (their ability to meet the researcher’s expectations) of narratives. When it comes to identity, “tellability” expressed the degree of experimentation and challenge that the teller is willing to take in the explorations of alternative constructions of the self. This is also the time in which crucial therapeutic concepts, such as working alliance, empowerment, acceptance, or pacing come into play. 4.4 Heuristics This study is very ambitious for the array of topics and fields it addresses or, sometime, just touches. With the self-awareness that the process of wondering is critical in my positioning as a researcher and a learner, I hope that this dissertation is the occasion to ask more questions rather than providing answers. Paraphrasing Rainer Maria Rilke, sometimes you have to love the question itself. This love may, in future researches, focus on further exploring counter-narratives of knowledge and power. In particular, it will be critical to explore the genealogy of statuses of being and belonging that are commonly linked to displacement. For instance, to investigate concepts of “refugee-ness”, diaspora, and exile may shed light in the power-based process of creating orders and constructions that will reflect on the assistance programs for refugees. The postmodern reflection on knowledge can be usefully applied toward constructing refugee experiences as cultural and social phenomena, rather than seeing the phenomenon of displacement as concerning just the individual and the specific context of violence or abuse. As I addressed in literature review on home and as it emerged from the participants’ narratives on territoriality and belonging, place is a relational construction that defines the dialogue among possibilities, contexts, and actions and, at once, is defined by such dialogue. In the open dialogue between local and global conditions of power and knowledge, new ways for understanding and collaborating with refugees can

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135 be generated. To an extent, post-colonial studies already took some significant steps in this direction, but, to the date, their influence is still minimal in psychology. By focusing on the genealogy of metanarratives and assumptions on displacement, this dissertation would be the first step of a larger discourse analysis that may explore social cultural constructions that the media provide of refugees’ fleeing, settlement, and return. This analysis, accompanied by an analysis of political discourses at the national and international level, may provide useful observations on the interweaving between personal experiences and socio-political constructions. Such analysis may result in an even stronger challenge to the focus on the individual and the pathological realms in the mental health care of refugees (Rosner, 2003; UNHCR, 2001). Finally, another direction that future investigations may take concerns the exploration of home, indeed one the most interesting and rich concepts of this dissertation. Reinterpretations and re-negotiations of the concept of home are common and never-ending processes in the life of migrants. At different times and contexts of life, constructions of home fulfill different relational agendas. By analyzing the similarities and differences among constructions of home by different kinds of “border-crossers” (refugees, migrants, sojourners, international students, militaries, tourists, etc.), researchers may increase their local understanding of dynamics of epistemological democratization. A mayor goal for this kind of analysis, as well as for those heuristic potentials mentioned above, is the possibility of overcoming reductive interpretations of the inter-cultural and inter-national experiences along the lines of adjustment or assimilation.

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136 4.5 Observations and Conclusions In the process of re-authoring, persons gain a sense of mastership and empowerment within the relational context of their lives (White & Epston, 1990). Through such moves toward empowerment and agency, narratives, values, and interpretations of home are not silenced in typical “either/or” constructions that oppose the refugees’ lives of before fleeing to their current and future lives. Re-authoring, instead, aspires to create the conditions for refugees to gain flexibility and harmony among their separate identities, so that the “‘either/or’ binary oppositions of modernity” (Natoli & Hutcheon, 1993, p. ix) is transformed into inclusive “both/and” (Anderson, 1997; Colic-Peisker, 2003; White & Epston, 1990; M. Gergen, 1995). Once the contact with the lost world of home is re-established, the person will be able to engage in a dialogue among those parts of the human experience that are kept separate. A common account of refugees is that they do not want to talk about their past: it is painful and poignant and, to the eyes of the author, the past is past and will never come back (Wilson & Droek, 2004). There is certainly wisdom in these words, even if, on the other hand, it is sad to think of a life that has no past. The past will never come back to how it used to be: the house, community, village, people of the refugees’ past will not be restored with their return as if migrations, violence, and pain never happened. Instead, the participants of this study showed us that it is in the ongoing communication among and interpretation of dimensions of time and space that persons develop narratives. In such narratives, all parts come together in a continuum, in a telling that the displaced individual re-authors along the very past, present, or future or the very home that she or he is trying to establish. These processes of construction and narration are not easy because they imply and lead to re-interpretations of one’s self or selves. Such

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137 reinterpretations do not happen in a vacuum, but, instead, are developed within a network of relationships, narratives, and meta-narratives in which the author positions him or herself (Harr & Langenhove, 1999). 4.5.1 Foreigners and Narratives of Exclusion Refugees, DP, migrants, exiles, asylum seekers: all of them come to the frontier (Sarup, 1994). They are deemed to become foreigner, once they cross the border and the social constructions of it. Often, however, borders cannot be completely crossed and, as the participants in this study showed us, there is no need for it. People can develop normal and fulfilling lives, especially if they do not endorse or fall into discourses and meta-narratives of dichotomy and exclusion. This study’s participants challenged the assumption that they should choose. Such assumption is based on the mechanistic, hydraulic belief that, if refugees are both here and there, they are split, as if – in a very modernistic and positivistic approach – the whole were a sum of the parts. Instead, the participants told us that one plus one (one foot here and one there) does not make two. Foreigners are not citizens: they do not benefit from the same rights and they are frequently reminded that they are different. They need to ask permission to the appropriate authorities in order to do things: to go to school, to work, to buy a house, to leave the country and come back, etc. “In a sense, the foreigner is a ‘symptom’: psychologically, s/he signifies the difficulty we have of living as an other and with others. Politically, the foreigner underlines the limits of the nation states.” (Sarup, 1994, p. 100). The dichotomy citizen-foreigner is an exercise in power: refugees are artificially separated from the others. The ambiguity that is often present in the way refugees perceives the social constructions of themselves (i.e., how refugees thinks others see them) is unwelcoming and emphasizes narratives of exclusion. The political choice

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138 refugees face is therefore between becoming the other (in this case, assimilating to the U.S. values, cultures, and discourses) or to live forever as an outsider, fearing to be uprooted again as the analysis of Ivana’s interview put upfront. In traditional folklore there were demons, witches, devils. Now we have visible deviants; the foreigners. Harsh sanctions are taken against migrants who, feeling threatened, often emphasis their cultural identity as a way of self-protection. They are forced into segregated areas and their sense of alienation reinforced. The new comer is seen as an intruder. There is a common assumption that there is only one norm: the dominant norm is the correct one, and that others must adjust. (Sarup, 1994, p. 103) 4.5.2 Territories and Identities Similar to the postmodern concept of constitutive otherness, Wise argues that territoralizations are ways to build boundaries between the inside and the outside: constructions of cultures are emblematic of such processes of defining territory. Constructions of home reflect, therefore, narratives of identity by highlighting discourses of definitions and differentiations. Home becomes the familiar, the habitual in which praxes and relations occur, and define and limit us. Rather than being a reification or an object, home becomes a text, a culture, a habit of narrating. Home becomes an epistemological criteria, like identities, which are “nothing but habits, Deleuze was fond of saying, the habit of saying ‘I’” (Sarup, 1994, p. 303). As it will be further discussed in other parts of this dissertation, identities are social practices and achievements, rather than entities. In their process of becoming, identities are territories that preexist our experiencing and condition our possibilities. Home as a linguistic process (languaging: Maturana & Varela, 1980) is the emblematic context for the territorialization of constructions and expressions of habits, texts, or discourses (grand narratives) of culture. This means that, if we assume that our interactions with the world have a constructive role in our perceptions

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139 of ourselves, we are to some extent “spoken by our spaces, by the effects of territorializations.We are disciplined through habit” (Wise, 2004, p. 303) (Foucault, 1975/1979). From the previous discussions, it emerges an idea of home as a dynamic place, which constantly changes according to people’s ability to dwell in it as well as with the social relations, positions, possibilities, and languages that construct it. Such place is a territory of definition and exclusion through narratives and metanarratives that constitute the Other and the self. Home emerges as a narrative that links together different moments, subjectivities, contexts, and discourses of the storytellers. It follows that home is not a place where to return. Different from a common view of looking at migration, the experience of emigrants does not need to finish with the return to home. The migrant experience ends with the re-conceptualization of home as a fluid space, contextually and relationally created. Distancing themselve from Heidegger’s idea of authentic and inauthentic places, postmodern narratives of home are interplays among person, social, and cultural pragmatics and agendas within the local, relational contexts. By distancing from pre-existing conditions of knowledge that are placed upon the displaced individual, the personal experiences of refugees and their sense of belonging and relating to a place called “home” develop into new possibilities and positions that are achieve in the process constructing and narrating themselves. Events, experiences, legislations, and limits of freedom constrict the realm of possibilities that refugees can aspire to through their language and languaging. Refugees may feel empowered and “authorized” to change the status quo according to the degree in which they endorse the limiting and dichotomous meta-narratives and they move them from exclusion to constitutive otherness. Rather than

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140 interpreting the refugees’ passivity as a symptom, a postmodern perspective suggests that passivity could be a strategy to gain power over a world that imposes pre-determined, dichotomous choices on refugees. When refugees embrace counter-narratives of empowerment, then their sense of agency is promoted in the creation of critical, located, and personalized knowledge. In this sense, we can see the positive results observed in refugee camps when local, indigenous knowledge was recognized and implemented resulting in the promotion of local wisdom versus discourse of epistemological superiority. The narratives of this dissertation’s interviewees showed that local discourses of social and legal marginalization critically contribute to the creation of narratives. Identity positions of inferiority were expressed in daily praxes and feelings, which underline power and political games: feeling inadequate or not being good enough, the need to always dress up to be accepted, the pressure to perform in order to achieve social recognition, or, for those participants with less socio-economic success, experiences of anger, isolation, threat to be send home, homesickness. Home was not a place of safety but a place of significance and life purpose. All the participants faced the difficult task of integrating their stories of pain and sufferance, of fleeing and border-crossing: some of them found such meanings in the narrations of home and return as (and in creating a position that) questioned the assumption that home is either in the host or in the home country. The participants’ narratives reflected a sense of “constitutive otherness” that developed through discourses on territoriality (home) and exclusion/difference (strangers; borders). These discourses were elaborated and narrated from and within contexts of

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141 political choices and agendas at personal, national, and international levels. At the level of person experiences in the daily praxis of living, social constructions and discourses of refugees as foreigners and strangers highlight narratives of antagonism. Such narratives are necessary to liberal thought, which employs “a logic of the social based on a conception of being as presence” in order to construe a sense of definition as absence. In creating narratives of dichotomies (inside vs. outside; citizen vs. stranger; similar vs. different), the liberal thought and the social sciences (Gergen, 1991) preserve social dynamics of power through narratives of exclusion. In the same line, postmodernism criticizes the “constitutive otherness” of modernity, the idea that definitions and identities are assertions of what or who something is and is not. With its technological developments, post-modernity is a time of unprecedented contacts with diversity and the Other. Nonetheless, such otherness is often used in terms of contraposition and hostility. The rich, Western countries that are destinations of massive immigration feel a need to protect their objectified national identity by constructing the immigrant in negative terms (Triandafillidou, 2003). The participants provided a live demonstration of how “boundaries are important points of reference for those participating in any system” (Sarup, 1994, p. 102). In the contemporary world of unprecedented changes of scenarios and precariousness, a world that finally starts to question the epistemological and political choices that led to the creation of specific knowledge, an increasing number of empowered and assertive individuals can challenge the boundary-maintaining structures and narratives. Counter-narrratives are the voice of such challenges: to the extent in which individuals are able to engage in the elaboration of counter narratives, they will take a small but crucial step

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142 toward owning a sense of agency in this world and, eventually, getting closer to the unachievable (Derrida, 1976) goal of democratizing epistemologies and reduce narratives of superiority that were and still are at the basis of the normalizing endeavors of traditional and contemporary forms of colonization. 4.5.3 Return: The Dialogue between Agency and Possibilities. This study focused on the core assumptions that people are not separate entities and that individual free will has little to say in contexts of forced migration and disempowered settlement. Although quite intuitive for a field such as refugee studies, these assumptions are surprisingly kept at the theoretical and detached level when it comes to applied and ecological work in the field (Zetter, 1999). Psychological and psychiatric care of refugees is provided from an individualistic and person-centered perspective. Refugees are seen as people with needs and traumas; their experiences are reified in medical and pathological discourses that sustain narratives of deficit and meta-narratives of dichotomous opposition between the “healthy” (assertive, business-oriented, determined, independent) and the “sick” (traumatized, passive, focused on the past, idealizing the lost home). In such dichotomy, mainstream discourses are implemented to mold the refugees’ identity to fit into narratives of opposition. Refugees are taught to compare themselves to the Other, who is constructed as the enemy: the other of the trauma, the other of the past, the other of home. In such contraposition, refugees find their place in this world, but at the cost of giving up views of the world that, rather than being based on a competitive market-ideology, are based on epistemologies of democracy. From the inputs and collaborations with the research participants, it emerged a view of the world that counters the prescription of dichotomies. Individuals are neither

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143 separated from their social context (Kvale, 1992, 1995) and relational reality (Gergen, 1991, 2001; Shotter & Gergen, 1989), nor steady entities that are faithful to themselves (Watzlawick, 1984; Maturana & Varela, 1980; Maturana, 1988). In addition, people do not simply construct and interact with the world, but they also face pre-existing and determining conditions of knowledge that create the language and, therefore, the limits and possibilities of the world (Wittgenstein, 1953; Lyotard, 1979/1984; Anderson, 1997). The postmodern context challenges not simply the fixed and absolute answers that are given to human questions on science, interpretations, and anticipations (Kelly, 1955; Polkinghorne, 1988; Walsh, 2004), but the questioning process itself and its implied aspirations to a knowledge that is timeless and context-less, that is universal and removed from the experience of the local reality. Such questioning style is inexorably deemed to keep us trapped in the same questions over and over (Rorty, 1999) and language that seems “to repeat itself inexorably” (Wittgenstein, 1953, p. 115). The postmodern approach is not a solution: rather, it is a critical process of comprehending the role of narratives and grand “narratives as a discourse practice” (Emerson & Frosh, 2004, p. 146) that create the conditions for “social achievements” (Holstein & Gubrium, 2000), relational dynamics of empowerment (Williams, Labonte, & O’Brien, 2003; Parker, 2005), and social constructions of a sense of agency. Moving toward “democratization of epistemologies”, the refugees’ narratives of identity, home, and return create the basis of social positions and possibilities, including those of becoming (Appiah, 2005) and doing. This study explored the ethics that are associated with particular formulations, orderings, and presentations of past, present, and future life experiences. In the participants’ lives, the narratives of empowerment and

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144 agency were directly linked to views of their experiences, cultural background, and home/belonging that challenged some of the taken-for-granted assumptions on refugees. It became clear that dichotomies between past and present, home and host country are more representative of expectations placed on refugees than of the participants’ social constructions. In a typical narrative therapy fashion, when the “either/or” narratives and constructions shift to “both/and” discourses (therefore involving also the socio-cultural context of the individual), then clients or participants feel empowered and relieved that they do not have to choose, that the supposed dilemmas are more representative of the societal and political expectations than they are of personal or relational needs. In such critical thinking, the supposed passivity of diagnostic and symptomatic descriptions of refugees’ mental health, moves from being in the individual to being in the context. Postmodern views of psychopathology underscore the relational aspects of the psychological issues and the political aspects of definitions and taxonomies: pathologies are not inside the person, but in the relational context in which they live and which points out that somebody has psychological concerns (Gergen, 1991). By developing counter-narratives, individuals or groups achieve awareness of the “carousel” in which they are riding. In this way, they can critically control it with the result of owning their actions through informed decision-making rather than experiencing passivity as a given of their pathology. These narratives of empowerment and agency take the place of modern narratives of universal dichotomies and objectifying reification, which create a knowledge paradigm of certainties and hierarchies. The postmodern condition that some of the participants develop is not superior or better than the modern one. It is a condition, though, that represents the cultural and technological milieu of our contemporary society,

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145 in which refugees camps are likely to host a variety of cultures and ethnicities. National policies or assistance protocols cannot be generalized, even because generalizations are never applied univocally. When rules correspond to exceptions, I wonder why we need rules or, better, why rules were created in the first place. The diversity and plurality of the postmodern times cannot be synthesized into fixed ideas of identities, home, and return for refugees. Even though there is a general agreement in valuing diversity, the discourse on plurality is purposefully kept at a very theoretical level. Scholars or policy makers do not openly argue for the elimination of exceptions, but they stick with their agendas and preconceived solutions that “will actually save us from our differences” (Gergen, 1991, p. 257). The current and spreading emphasis on empirically validated treatments (APA, 1995) fits the modern and Western agenda to reduce differences, not by improving the conditions of those that are most vulnerable and with least power, but by shutting down alternative conditions and discourses through meta-narratives of supposed epistemological and aesthetic superiority. The current political and cultural celebration of democracy, market economy, and freedom of choice are other monolithic discourses of the postmodernism as a cultural condition (Jameson, 1991; Negri &Hardt, 2000). Walsh (2004, p. 458) critically addresses the risks related to the diffusion of such meta-narratives: Empirically validate treatments. presumes that technical skill follows directly from scientific knowledge. Even more problematic is the virtual exclusion of practical knowledge as a relevant form of knowledge. Thus, the current emphasis on psychotherapy manuals, developed in accord with natural science precepts, attempts to bridge the research-practice gap by equating the knowledge generated through theory and quantitative research with technical skill and by ignoring the value-laden, intuitive, and engaged nature of psychotherapy in practice. As a result, psychotherapy is being portrayed merely as a set of fixed procedures independent of the interpersonal contexts in which it is conducted.

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146 The postmodern criticism of monolithic epistemologies, associated with the emphasis on relational and contextual reality, may potentially promote the expression of counter narratives of diversity and anti-conformity and a genuine democratization of society. When diagnostic categories and standardized treatments are celebrated, then knowledge and practice are de-contextualized and grand narratives predetermine and limit the field. Postmodernism points out that, when such standardizations happen, the few are advantaged over the most: power dynamics hide behind language games and political choices, which transform choices and perspectives into normal, accepted, and taken-for-granted knowledge. When it comes to refugees, “highly specialized clinical models and techniques address the needs of very few, while the many rarely receive adequate support. Moreover, such models are not sustainable. They increase the dependency of populations concerned as well as of services of host countries upon external support and hamper local capacity building. Responses need to become holistic and multisectoral” (Brundtland, 2000, p. 160). The exploration of processes and links among identity, home, and return is an invitation for the development a psychology of place that will not reduce context to variables or dimensions. It is vital to avoid reductions when a study is related to experiences, especially poignant ones such as violence and fleeing. In the lives of refugees time and space are not granted: their meanings transcend common interpretations to settle in a place that is suspended (Pipher, 2002). Time is often stopped between pre-traumatic life and future hopes: Identities did and will exist, but the present is frequently an empty parenthesis between the past and the future. It is in the moment in which people start questioning assumed and reifying definitions of space and time, by

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147 underscoring the political and psychological “nature” of reality, that a first step is taken towards a sense of empowerment and agency that, using again Foucault’s words, will lead to a democratization of epistemologies. The research participants are dealing with narratives of opposition and exclusion that split their lives, that create a preand a postwhich is a constant source of conflict and redefinitions. Some interviewees found new metanarratives, such as those that counter mainstream assumptions, whereas other participants found more useful to create positions in which they were separated from their past. In any case, no position is stable and a position can be “the best” just in relation to the specific context in which the refugee lives and the speaker talks. It is in ongoing dialogue between different positions and their possibilities that a sense of agency develops. In a humble postmodern science, agency does not lead to narrative and acts of exclusion and competition. Instead, it leads to the acknowledgement of difference, of the invisible parts of the population. In our contemporary society, refugees are often at the margins of the text. Nonetheless, postmodernism emphasizes that every text needs margins: the margins define and constitute the text. It is in this empowerment of the margins that postmodernism finds becomes of a theoretical framework that collaborates with refugees to promote agency and empowerment, to tolerate incommensurable interpretations of time and territory, and to refine the society’s sensitivity to differences that can be constitutive with no need to be excluding (Lyotard, 1979/1984). 4.5.4 Final Comments and Reflections on a Postmodern View of Agency Every attempt to deduce what ought or should be from what is (i.e., from the being) is necessarily reductive. It would be like to “understand”, assess, and defend or dismiss the choice of being vegetarian based on the physiological observation that the human digestive system is omnivore, or to reject GLBT possibilities based on the “fact”

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148 that men and women need each other to preserve the human species. Choices or dilemmas cannot be understood according to realistic, ontological approaches to a supposed condition without trivializing them. The history of psychology is full of these approaches to the human experience: nephrology, behaviorism, the biological reductionism of certain psychiatry, the reality of the psychoanalytic unconscious, or the understanding of border crossing and cultural adjustment in terms of variables such as cultural distance or the level of knowledge of the host country language (Babiker, Cox, & Miller, 1980; Berry, 1997; Redmond, 2000). In the same way, the choice of refugees to return or settle – the initial inspiration of this dissertation – cannot be limited to reifications of the concepts and experiences of trauma, home, optimal functioning, or empowerment. When reality is approached according to hypothetical, relational and contextual epistemologies, social and cultural conditions are seen as constructions, narratives, and discourses. Instead, when reality is transformed into reifications or objectifications, then specific interpretations and orders are assumed to be intrinsically better than others, in virtue of a given, absolute state of being that cannot be questioned because it is true. Metanarratives of opposition and exclusion aspire to create such status quo, in which distinctions between majority and minority, normal and abnormal, powerful and invisible are taken for granted and, therefore, accepted as part of the “order of things” (Foucault, 1978), “human nature”, or human experience. However, as Foucault warned, assumed statutes of being (like human nature) are not objects of a research: they are epistemological criteria. They are, in other words, tools for the creation of a specific kind of knowledge. Data, observations, truths are normatively constituted by the performing

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149 and constitutive ability of discourse. Instead of being presented as ontological descriptions of the order of things, social or immigration status reflect political and power-based choices: the choice to create differences and oppositions so that a majority can dominate and another group can be secluded to invisibility, to being “a minority of minorities”, as Ivana said in her interview. Such metanarratives give ontological status to (an) “enemy” and (a) “home”. They dictate the ethical freedom and sense of agency and empowerment of refugees, which are asked to choose their citizenship, to settle in one country, to be either here or there. These normative “shoulds” are presented as untouchable and unquestionable. They are strong enough to determine the future of a person when it comes to giving her political asylum because her country is now (deemed) safe. But when people start questioning these truths and orders, when they start asking “whose knowledge is this?”, then a space is created for the development of empowering counter-narratives and political designs of democratization. In such critical moves, reality is acknowledged as a social construction in which metanarratives are present, but do not need to dominate. In fact, it is in the questioning of metanarratives that new knowledge and social orders are created. The above considerations are a reminder of the need to reflexively involve participants and clients in the process of social change and in the stories of which they take part. A further step in challenging the distinction between the expert and the novice or between the provider and the recipient of change is to promote the clients’ awareness of and participation in the very process of change. Whether therapeutic or political, change is not something that just happens as a result at the end of the process: change is a

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150 step that participants need to proactively take and to talk about in order to come to a position of social and personal participation and democratization. Empowerment occurs when people see themselves as agents of change. However, the risk of falling into metanarratives of heroism and individualism is strong. On the one hand, clients or refugees are or have become part of the Western focus on individual agency: According to the dominant American middle class model, normatively ‘good’ actions should be primarily the results of the individual’s own desires, goals, intentions or choices; the independent self is foregrounded as the source of action while others are fixed in the background. Agency is constructed as personal and bounded within the individual. This model of agency as disjoint, or as disconnected from others and rooted solely in the individual, is widely distributed and inscribed in mainstream American society; it is expressed by social scientists, reflected in the media, and echoed by individuals talking about themselves (Markus & Kitayama, 2004, p. 6) On the other hand, it is the role of the helping professional to promote a sense of empowerment by critically addressing the above-mentioned metanarrative of individualism. As this study’s findings show about the participants, such critical awareness emerges from a process of reflexivity that, at least initially, challenges the two main philosophical and epistemological categories of the modern Western culture: time and space. By critically examining the social and cultural distributions of agency and power, clients or refugees may come to develop a sense of ownership of their power to be agents of change in the social context. Such change is not individual, but collective. In this process, individualism becomes an epistemological criterion of the modern era, whereas the very distinctions between the internal and the external, now and past, here and there, home and host country are seen as language artifacts in a postmodern context.

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151 In the same way, the step from subjects to subjectivities embraces the multiphrenic (Gergen, 1991) division of identity into realities of "difference" among a multiplicity of subjectivities. The individual is neither internal nor external; and it is not both internal and external: the very antinomy between an inside and an outside world is questioned in virtue of the impossibility of differentiating and pragmatically putting such distinction into ecological and local practice. Out of the four possibilities between being (a) here, (b) there, (c) both here and there, and (d) neither here nor there, the participants of this study told us that the point is not to choose one of these conditions. Through counter-narratives, some of the participants questioned the very possibility of being of the distinction between here and there. They challenged its right to exist as linked to cultural and epistemological dichotomies of space and time that form some of the current meta-narratives and mainstream approaches to refugee and migration studies. Agency, the “implicit framework of ideas and practices about how to be that are engaged to construct the actions of the self, of others, and the relationship among those actions” (Markus & Kitayama, 2004, p. 6), is neither here nor there. Agency is in the relational and empowering domain of questioning normalizing constructions of knowledge and oppressive power distributions. Agency is not an object, but a relational criterion of epistemology and ethics. Agency is a process that creates knowledge and possibility about one’s perceptions of identity, home, and return. Such process is located, rather than local, and the context into which it operates is not ontological or physical, but relational and epistemological. Agency is situated and, therefore, part of metanarratives that emerge from social conventions and historical processes. As for the participants in this study, when persons relationally and discursively start questioning “normal” and

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152 normalizing constructions of history and power, knowledge and agency likely stop being impositions in order to become empowering social achievements.

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APPENDIX A INFORMED CONSENT Informed Consent Protocol Title: Refugees’ narrative identity and c onstructions of home and return Please read this consent document carefully before you decide to particip ate in this study. Purpose of the research study: The purpose of this study is to explore thr ee aspects that may be significant in the understanding of the refugee experience: your id eas of identity, home, and return will be investigated in order to unders tand personal, social, and cultur al narratives that influence refugees’ lives and their choice on returning home. What you will be asked to do in the study: You will be asked to express your views of your self, home, and return (the order is not important). Also, you will be asked to tell your opinion on how significant others see or influence you (it is your personal choice on w hom to consider “significant”). During a second interview you will be asked to freely provide feedback on the analysis of the first interview. You do have the right of refusing to answer any question. Time required: The time required for the first interview vari es between 45 minutes and one and a half hours. The second interview will be shorter, lasting between 20 and 40 minutes. Risks and Benefits: Neither significant risk no r potential benefits are antic ipated as result of your participation in this study. Compensation will not be provided. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Every detail that can lead to your identification will not be reported in the study. Only people directly related to this research will get access to ta pes, transcriptions, and study material. Every 153

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154 item will be kept in a locked file. Tapes will be destroyed by the principal investigator (i.e. Marco Gemignani) at the end of the investigation. Your name will not be used in any report. Voluntary participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Gemignani Marco, Department of Psychology, PO Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL (e-mail: ). Franz Epting, PhD, Department of Psychology, PO Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL (e-mail: . Telephone: 271-0601 ext. 256) Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph. (352) 392-0433. Agreement: I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this description. Participant: _______________________________________ Date: _________________ Principal Investigator: _______________________________ Date: _________________

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APPENDIX B FLYER USED TO RECRUIT PARTICIPANTS DID YOU HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR HOME COUNTRY BECAUSE OF WAR, VIOLENCE, or POOR ECONOMIC/SOCIAL CONDITIONS? If so, please contact MARCO GEMIGNANI, a doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology, to schedule an interview. All collected information will be kept strictly confidential. Please email MARCO at or call (617) 573-8226 during office hours (617) 227-4994 or (352 ) 870-2450 during evenings or weekends. 155

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APPENDIX C CONVENTIONS USED IN TRANSCRIBING INTERVIEWS The following conventions are taken from Silverman, 1997, p. 254: ( ) Empty parentheses indicate talk too obscure to transcribe hhh The letter ‘h’ is used to indi cate a hearable as piration, usually underscoring hesitation and/or an emotional moment for the speaker [ Left-side brackets indicate wh ere overlapping talk begins ] Right-side brackets indicate where overlapping talk ends >< ‘Greater than’ or ‘less than’ symbols enclose talk that is noticeably faster or slower that th e surrounding talk ((sad)) Word in double parentheses i ndicate transcriber’s comments, not transcriptions (1) Number between parentheses indicate s the length (in s econds) of periods of silence ::: Colons indicate a lengthening of the sound just preceding them, proportional to the number of colons He says Underlining indicates stress or emphasis Dr^ink A ‘hat’ or circumflex accent sy mbol indicates a marked pitch rise = Equal signs (usually at the end of one line and the start of an ensuing one) indicate a ‘latched’ re lationship – no silence at all between them. [he was] Words between square parenthesi s have been added by the transcriber to make the transcription more readable in case of major grammar mistakes or missing syntax words (This last c onvention is not present in Silverman, 1997). 156

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APPENDIX D EXAMPLE OF THE ANALYSIS OF IVANA’S INTERVIEW The numbers is the “Narratives” column will be used as reference points for the next steps of the data analysis STEP 1: Identification and elaboration of narratives Text (I = Ivana; M= Marco) Themes Narratives I: I can’t travel because every time I have to travel I have to ask for a travel document which again expires in within one year and it takes seven months to get one > that’s stressful:: (1.5) > very > (hhh) ^uncertain ::: M: Do (1) do you know when this::: (1) uncertainty ::will be over? I: I don’t know how to ask (1) > I don’t know who to ask to (1) ::: I asked INS ((U.S. Immigration department)) and they said, “Wait (1) we don’t know (1) it’s a backlog” so::: you don’t know where to ask for your rights (2) < if you are a green card holder, you can always ask for your own rights, > but me:: (1) (hh)I can’t, “So: you don’t like it in here, go back !” (1) you know, so::: (low and trembling tone of voice: it seems that the speaker is going to cry) M: How does all this feel like? I: (hhh):: it’s, it’s like being a minority of minorities I’d say (smiles) like it does feel like like that M: How is that? I: because you are not treated as they are treated as a whole, you know ::: like,: the same way as the people that work for you! You know it’s different ! < You are an asylee (1) you are an immigrant ! (angry tone of Limitations of freedom of movements Documents (simulacrum of power) Stress & uncertainty Not knowing who knows INS Waiting Lack of rights Difference people with and without green card Invitation to go back Feeling like a second-class citizen Treatment received by immigration officers and departments Immigration status Anger 1. Power differentials 2. Knowledge is precious and its lack contributes to the feelings of disempowerment of Ivana 3. Ivana is narrating her experiences of powerless-ness 4. She is not a person, she is an immigration case. 157

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158 voice) > You know?! M: and how does it feel for you ? I: not that good, not pleasant. You know like or when I say is that I am homesick and cannot visit home, people do not understand that, that “you’re homesick go home, get a plane to go home” and I cannot explain to them why I can’t go home, because Americans they don’t really understand asylum. so th^at’s stressful M: why do you think Americans do not understand asylum? I: They don’t understand how this works, not just asylum I don’t think they understand a lot about immigration. I think they think that everybody that comes here is an immigrant (1) doesn’t matter what status you have, and they think you are here to get their job::: (1) maybe (1.5) M: I see (2) that must be hard! I: yeah, yeah, like I don’t.. I don’t feel like that I am welcomed sometimes::: (1) actually most of the times so M: that makes you probably feel even more homesick I: yeah, definitely M: So, if you could go home, would you go home? I: Yeah! I would go home for every year, I would go for at least a month (2) I’ll go visit (1) or they can come visit me either way. (1) But they can either because coming from a Third World country, I don’t think they would give a visa to a 21 year old you know (2):: a boy (1) to come here and (2) my brother can never make it here (sad tone) my younger brother (1) and has been seven years that I haven’t seen him, so that’s.. I am really homesick right now Homesickness She cannot leave People tell her to go home if she feels homesick I cannot tell them Americans do not understand asylum Stress They do not understand Asylum Take jobs away from US citizens Feeling unwelcome Home Home every year Visit home Third World Country Brother Younger brother Family distance – homesick 5. Home: missing home as a place of security, relations, and power to where to return 6. Isolation 7. She shares her helplessness: she cannot tell, because it not worth it as they do not understand her and they fight her 8. (IT’S A LOST-LOST GAME: whether I do or don’t explain them, they will not understand) 9. Migration and exclusion: the borders are closed for her brother 10. Family responsibility and

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159 M: hum I hear you I: But there is nothing I can do, I made all the sacrifices to stay here for asylee (2) work hard (1) pay a layer, and I don’t feel like ruining this, all this thing, could be one more year two more years that I have to wait may be more I don’t know I just trying to be optimistic and say I wait two more years M: you are waiting to get a green card I: the green card M: then once you get the green card you how you expect your life to change I: oh it changes a lot M: how? I: Changes a lot like I can get a loan, I can go to school, I can buy I am thinking on buying a house, would be more at ease with me (1) it would be different at work::: I would have less, (hhh)less pressure than I can go home! (1) I can visit any time I want! (1) < if I am homesick, I can get the plane and go home! M: Do you feel that also by getting a green card you would feel more welcomed? I: Oh yes! I would feel accepted::: yes. (3) humm I > I’m not really settled < I don’t really feel that this is my country but I don’t really feel that Kosovo is my country, I feel like I’m lost, you know those birds than go from one place to another place to find a warmer place for them (1) the swallow bird? > it’s how I feel sometimes::: like:: “OK, can I call America my country?” I can’t because it is not, I am not a citizen here and going back to Kosovo or whatever happen to me I don’t think I wanna do that, and been 7 years away from that country and adapting to this country I.. kind of develop with this people here, same way these people Nothing she can do Sacrifices as an asylee Immigration lawyer Ruining things Waiting time Does not know how long Trying to be optimistic Greed card Change after the green card Possibilities related to the green card Loan, school, house Less pressure Home Visit home freely Social acceptance Being settled Neither this nor Kosovo is my country Feeling lost Feeling like a migratory bird Warmer place (home) America is not my country I am not a citizen Return to Kosovo Uncertain future – anxiety Long time far from home Cultural adaptation & growth belonging 11. She has worked so hard and made so many sacrifices that she does not want to give up again and to ruin (throw away) her hard work. 12. Green card would allow her to settle and to start planning her future and establish a new relation with home. Green card as a symbol of power and freedom 13. What it home? Where is the warmer place? 14. She tells that she is not allowed to see the US as her country. 15. Even if Americans do not understand me, they do it more than Kosovarians 16. She chose her

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160 are developing and there is a good chance that these people in America understand me a little bit better than if I go back to Kosovo now, it would be ah.. very conservative if I go to Kosovo because I wouldn’t have the same mentality I had when I left Kosovo, so there is no way people would I would find the same people I left they you know it’s like... people developed their own way and I developed my own way but I left Kosovo ( ) was the same and this is how it is gonna be for me. I am a better person, I left Kosovo when I was 20 years old then how is it gonna be now that I am 27? I am not expecting to find the same people, the same costumes? The same people, the same customs, the same of everything M: This is interesting How do you know this? I: I talk to friends over the phone or by Internet and I can see that I have different points of view and for some reason, when I talked to at least two of them, [they] acted like I don’t know them anymore like is this big gap like I don’t know them anymore and then a kind I question myself: “Were these my friends or was I just dreaming?” (2) I I was just a little girl and I didn’t really understand and I was just growing up and I felt this was my best friend so I don’t know M: It’s almost as if you grew apart from your friends I: well > it feels very sad , very sad very disappointing (2), < but, again, I am optimistic and I try to keep in touch with everybody because you never know! I like to talk I like to have friends a lot it’s just may be it’s my personality, some people when they get married and have their kids, they don’t really think about friends anymore but I think I do, I wanna talk to my friends! (3) I::: . (1) >> I am developing in the American way now (3) < so it’s kind of very strange Americans can understand me more than Kosovarians can Conservative Different mentality in contemporary Kosovo Different people and growth directions I left (they stayed) I changed Age Development People and habits change Everything is not the same Friends Different mentality I don’t know my friends anymore Big gap now Maybe I was wrong in considering them as friends Lack of understanding I don’t know Sadness Disappointment Optimism Keep in touch with Kosovo Friends American influence on Ivana destiny and now she has to bear with the consequences of her choices 17. Difference between people in Kosovo and here 18. Confusion 19. It’s sad to have to leave, and to have to choose between a here and a there. She keeps in touch with people at home in order to mitigate the loss. Friends are important for her.

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161 for me to comprehend this transition , these things that are happening and.. when it comes to.. thinking of having a job or having a life in Kosovo I don’t wanna think of that.. I just left Kosovo (1) (sad tone of voice) >> thinking :: I have a life here < I don’t wanna think about that (1) that would make me really disappointed (2) I don’t know what’s going to happen to me if I go back there :::: I feel like a fish with no water, you know, completely lost. Transition Life in Kosovo (there): don’t want to consider it Life here Disappointed if I had to leave Anxiety related to going back – out of place 20. Her place is here 21. She cannot or does not want to return STEP 2: ACTION ORIENTATION, POSITIONS AND SOCIAL ACHIEVEMENTS The point numbers refer to the column on narrative of the previous step. The italics are key points that are relevant to the research question and/or the next steps of the data analysis. 1) Points 1-4 : Ivana is narrating the limitations that are implied in her status as an asylum seeker. In addition to the limitations related to traveling and going to her home country whenever she wants, the speaker talks about lack of knowledge about her status and the imprecise information that she receives from INS. She feels powerless, invisible (a minority of minorities): she is not a person, but an immigrant. Ivana is trying to make sense of her situation of uncertainty. She chooses to express her anger with me. She may be looking for compassion, but also for a social position that justifies her anger and social disempowerment. 2) Point 5 : following her expression of anger, she looks the reassurance and safety of home. 3) Points 6-8 : Home is opposed again to the present here. She talks about “Americans”, giving the idea of distance from them, of a population that she does not belong to. They will not understand her: the speaker constructs for herself a position of diversity, isolation, and helplessness. Again, she is making sense of her anger, which now is not just related to being an outsider, with an uncertain migration status, but also to being an enemy, someone who can harm the US society by stealing jobs to Americans. Ivana sees the fact that she has not a green card yet as a set up for future failure. She learned her helplessness. She is a target.

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162 4) Point 9-11 : After having described as country as belonging to the Third World and her feelings of homesickness, she points out that the borders are closed for her brother. Her family cannot come here. After having highlighted the oppositions and differences from the other, the Americans that deny a visa to her and her little brother, she feels the need to state who she is, her family and home as parts of her identity as well as where she comes from, Kosovo, her home country, which however is still a Third World country, suggesting again a difference from the USA. But she is also one who left (see point 16). 5) Points 12-18 : Home is neither Kosovo (differences of mentality + the country and people are changes + Ivana is changed) nor the USA (she has not visa and she is not allowed to be a citizen). She presents herself as confused in the middle of nowhere. She deals with the consequences of her choice to stay in the USA to try to become an asylee. She is wondering about her finding position along the lines of the here and the there: where would she have a better future? She anticipates that in Kosovo, she would have no future She want to go out of such confusion and to settle in order to build a future for her. 6) Points 19-21 : In a rush to go out of the confusion, the speaker states her position regarding home: home is here. But in order to do this, she needs first to set more differences between the here and there: the way she chooses is distance herself from her friends, who –she states– are very important for her. In a typical mourning process, she states her care for her friends. On the one hand, friends are very important and she keeps in contact with them (she keeps a link with home = there). On the other hand, both her friends and she changed. Now, she could not return to Kosovo: she would die as a fish out of water. Again, this is a clear attempt to construct a steady position about her future. STEP 3: MASTER AND METANARRATIVES The point numbers refer to the numbers of action orientations and positions highlighted in the previous step Points 1-3 : metanarrative of opposition and enemy: “Americans, they, other”, distancing herself from here and there, and from Americans and Kosovarians. Constitutive otherness: she uses her views of others to construct her own subjective position in the relation between them and I. However, her use of differentiations and constructions follows the opposing and “fighting” style of metanarratives of exclusions toward foreigners. Similar to other participants of this study, Ivana seems to be part of metanarratives of social exclusion and opposition. In her case, such metanarratives take the clear shape of negative constructions of the foreigner or stranger, of the person who comes to this country to take the good jobs for Americans or, as President Bush said, to

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163 do the jobs that Americans do not want to do. The social construction of foreign workers is therefore either that as opportunists (who steal the job to US citizens) or as invisible workers. Points 4-6 and, partially, point 3 : metanarratives of territoriality as opposed between a here and a there. Ivana’s position is to feel in neither here nor there, and to choose to be here with a link to Kosovo. However, she seems to dance around the here and there. Choosing the here, choosing to feel American seems an act of necessity for her future, instead of an informed, more or less “free” choice. (A little later in the interview, she describes her symptoms of depression and homesickness). She does not want to choose: rather, she prefers to think that she changed. As she is a different person, she may feel freer to choose a place or, maybe, to build one for her future. STEP 4: COUNTER-NARRATIVES About the metanarrative of opposition and enemy, Ivana uses her stories to express and put into a local context her feelings of anger, confusion, homesickness, and anxiety (and, as she will describe later on, depression). This is an initial step, but at this point, she is not engaging in any counter-narrative about opposition. In another place of the interview, Ivana describes her powerlessness in relation to her visa status and the de-humanizing experience of anxiety that she needs to undergo because of her uncertainty and the frightening scenario of having to go back home. About the metanarratives of territoriality, similar to other interviewees, Ivana is telling us that she does not need to choose between here and there. It is not an either/or situation and she can feel there, at home, even by pointing out the differences between the way people think and behave in Kosovo in comparison to the USA. However, the technology helps and she questions the need to settle down statically as well as she questions, by angrily sharing it, the need to wait for her status resolution in order to feel that she can belong here. Still, she eventually feels the pressure to clarify her position by stating that home is here now (it will be important to consider other constructions and narrations of home and place in her interview).

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH After completing his undergraduate education in psychology at the Universit degli Studi di Padova, Italy, and at the Universidad Central de Barcelona, Spain, Marco Gemignani moved to the University of Florida for a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. He chose that program because of the presence in the faculty of two well-known constructivist psychologists, Dr. Franz Epting and Dr. Greg Neimeyer, both members of his doctoral committee. He collaborated and published with both of them and the former acted as his academic advisor. In the summer 2003, Marco was awarded a World Citizen Fellowship from the Coca-Cola Foundation and the University of Florida. He went to Belgrade, Republic of Serbia & Montenegro, where he worked as a mental health counselor for refugees and displaced individuals from the wars and violence that followed the fall of the former Yugoslavia. Marco Gemignani is expected to join the Psychology Department at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh (PA) in August 2005, for a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor. He is currently interested in research on the psychological aspects of border crossing, peace psychology, narrative-postmodern philosophy and therapy, and qualitative psychology. 183