Shyam K. Sriram is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). His primary field of specialization is American Politics with a focus on immigration, refugee resettlement, Asian American politics, voting, and elections. He is an alumnus of Purdue University (B.A. 2002), Georgia State University (M.A. 2006), and UCSB (M.A. 2017). His interest in refugee resettlement stems from his experiences as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Atlanta with refugee youth (2004 to 2004) and a professor at Georgia Perimeter College (2008 to 2014) in Clarkston, Ga., the site of all initial refugee resettlement in the state.
"Where There is Breath, There is Hope": Exploring the Political Lives of Bhutanese Refugees in America
While all refugees embody a distinct spirit of toughness – driven primarily by the political persecution which separates them from others seeking the emollience of American life – it would be hard not to see the current wave of Bhutanese refugees as being extra “tough.” The U.S. government labels them Bhutanese, but their customs, language, and Hindu faith are all rooted in Nepal. They were a people without a country, who now find themselves in a country that is facing an ideological divide over the nature, and future, of immigration. The focus of this project is to explore the political lives of Bhutanese refugees through an ambitious, in-depth, comparative study of refugees in two American states (California and Georgia). While the primary independent variable in my dissertation is the sub-national state – to understand for the first time the role that state refugee resettlement policy plays in the short- and long-term “success” of refugees – this project in Critical Refugee Studies is completely focused on learning about the political histories of Bhutanese refugees with a view to understanding, for the first time, the process by which a single refugee cohort learns about, and participates in, American politics. I am keenly interested in the initial period of resettlement for Bhutanese refugees and how first experiences, interacting with caseworkers and government officials, sets the stage for future political development and interests.