Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine
Helpers in the Neoliberal Borderlands
The “communitarian” version of Lewiston’s story pushes back against xenophobia by insisting on an expansive definition of community while also betraying disappointment about poor institutional support for indigent immigrants and gatekeeping efforts to contain refugee agency and engagement in city life. Chapter 6 profiles social workers, teachers, caseworkers, and community advocates who work in the neoliberal border zones where refugee immigrants who need assistance ask for help. Those profiled here see the future of the refugees as the future of Lewiston and advocate communitarianism rather than tolerance. They express frustration at the narrow, tolerance-based approach to building programs for refugees taken by institutional leaders, marked by an unwillingness to look to models from other cities that had more experience with diversity, refugees, or both. They are engaged in affective labor that attempts to buffer the blows of racism, xenophobia, and neoliberal demands for refugee economic independence, self-sufficiency, autonomy, and self-help.