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Unformatted text preview: OUTCASTS UN I TED AND T HE MATER IAL CULTURE OF SOCIAL BOUNDAR IES Here is the basic process of settlement as described in Outcasts United . Because I have been reasonably familiar with the area over the past three decades, I can offer plenty of first hand accounts to enrich the basic outline of the text, but the demographic numbers themselves set up the foundation for our discussion well. “The first refugees arrived in Clarkston in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s from Southeast Asia—mostly Vietnamese and Cambodians fleeing Communist governments. Their resettlement went smoothly, and none of the older residents in town raised any objection, if they even noticed these newcomers. After all, the apartments were still a world away from the houses across town. So the agencies, encouraged by that success, resettled other refugees, survivors of the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo and oppressed minorities from the former Soviet Union. World Relief and the International Rescue Committee, both resettlement agencies, opened offices in Clarkston to better serve the newcomers, and brought in still more refugees—now from war-ravaged African countries including Liberia, Congo, Burundi, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Between 1996 and 2001, over 19,000 refugees were resettled in Georgia, and many of those ended up in or around Clarkston. The 2000 census revealed that fully one third of Clarkston’s population was foreign-born, though almost everyone suspected the number was higher because census estimates did not account for large numbers of refugees and immigrants living together in Clarkston’s apartments” (31-32). The text repeatedly refers to the “liminality” of the space inhabited by the refugees, for indeed they did find themselves thrust into the borderlands between two cultures, one behind them that, because of political and personal tragedies, was rendered both lost and completely inaccessible, and the larger American culture that often seemed to ignore their existence unless it was to harass them and conscribe their behavior in their new hometown of Clarkston. Perhaps because of this liminal space of cultural hybridity, the refugee families often struggled to retain the values from their home countries and cultures. Sometimes, this was a positive force, for the traditional values of family and community proved necessary for sanity and survival, but often negative cultural practices were retained just as avidly....
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- Fall '08
- Clarkston, fi rst refugees, fi rst hand, larger American culture