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Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees’ Journey to Lewiston, Maine

September 21, 2016 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm EDT

Mid-Maine Global Forum is pleased to offer a lecture by Catherine Besteman at: 12:30 pm, September 21, 2016, at our new venue, The Alfond Center, North Street, Waterville. Please Register by Email: Bonnie Sammons ( or by telephone: Bonnie Sammons at 716-1022 Lunch catered by Jorgensen’s for $10 – Please pay at the door. Please register for this Wednesday lunch program no later than Monday September 19.

How do people whose entire way of life has been destroyed and who witnessed horrible abuses against loved ones construct a new future? How do people who have survived the ravages of war and displacement rebuild their lives in a new country when their world has totally changed? In Making Refuge Catherine Besteman follows the trajectory of Somali Bantus from their homes in Somalia before the onset in 1991 of Somalia’s civil war, to their displacement to Kenyan refugee camps, to their relocation in cities across the United States, to their settlement in the struggling former mill town of Lewiston, Maine. Tracking their experiences as “secondary migrants” who grapple with the struggles of xenophobia, neoliberalism, and grief, Besteman asks what humanitarianism feels like to those who are its objects and what happens when refugees move in next door. As Lewiston’s refugees and locals negotiate coresidence and find that assimilation goes both ways, their story demonstrates the efforts of diverse people to find ways to live together and create community. Besteman’s account illuminates the contemporary debates about economic and moral responsibility, security, and community that immigration provokes.

Catherine Besteman is an anthropologist who has taught at Colby since 1994. After conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Somalia in the late 1980s, she reunited with her former neighbors from Somalia when they began moving to Maine as resettled refugees in 2006. Her new book, Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine, chronicles their journey from war-torn Somalia, to Kenya’s massive refugee camps, and, finally, to Lewiston. Besteman is a recent Guggenheim fellow, and her research for this book was also supported by grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies.


September 21, 2016
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm EDT
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Alfond Center
Waterville, Maine + Google Map