Power and non-economic capital: Bosnian Muslim refugees navigating resettlement in Washington, D.C
Over 140,000 Bosnian refugees resettled in the United States from 1995-2005. Many of them were Bosnian Muslims fleeing the genocide and the aftermath of the war that shattered the former Yugoslavia. The people who resettled in the United States arrived with various skills and abilities. My work demonstrates that the context of resettlement and the experiences and skills that Bosnian Muslims had at their disposal played an important role in how individual refugees maneuvered the resettlement process. Some individuals were better poised to successfully navigate the resettlement process and life in the United States because of the non-economic capital they could mobilize. Everyday life in resettlement required Bosnian Muslim refugees to interact with and participate in several modalities of power: structural, tactical, interpersonal and as an agent. For refugees moving through, within and across these modalities, some forms of capital were more valuable than others. Forms of capital could be also be transformed into other types of capital to the benefit of the individual actor. Thus, social relationships (social capital) could be mobilized to access wage labor (economic capital) or knowledge about resettlement (cultural capital). The wages or knowledge acquired through these interactions could then be brought to bear upon life in the resettlement, often with beneficial outcomes. All capital, however, was not equal. Further, not all actors had access to valued forms of capital, or if they possessed it, were able to mobilize it Actors at all levels of the resettlement process (refugees, case workers and administrators) were bounded by the modalities of power in the resettlement process. Power and non-economic capital are context dependent. What is valuable in one location is not necessarily valued in another. This research examines how Bosnian Muslim refugees living in a small transitional housing program in Washington, D.C. were able to mobilize forms of capital (cultural and social) within the webs of power of resettlement. The social and cultural capital Bosnian Muslim refugees were able to mobilize affected their ability to successfully navigate the resettlement process.