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The Role of Regimes of Cooperation in the Well-Being of Rohingya Refugees in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Fort Wayne

posted on 2024-03-25, 01:54 authored by Helal Mohammed Khan

This dissertation examines agency, cooperation, and well-being in the context of refugee resettlement. Past studies of refugee resettlement have explored fractures, fissions, and conflicts in the complex geopolitics and economics that govern it, often citing mistrust and lack of hope among participants. Despite that, millions of refugees have resettled worldwide over the past decades, becoming citizens and legal residents in their new homes. How do refugees survive, adapt and even thrive against the odds portrayed by multiple studies on refugee resettlement? This intriguing question guides my research, looking into dynamic processes and institutions underlying the growth of Rohingya refugee micro-communities in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Fort Wayne. My principal finding is that refugees pursue cooperation and hope as the primary mechanism to attain well-being in a new country, mediated by institutions such as cultural centers and faith-based organizations through place- and space-making practices.

I develop two novel theoretical concepts – “the abling refugee” and “regimes of cooperation” – through this study. The abling refugee speaks to refugees’ progressive interactions with people, processes, and institutions in their resettlement locations from a place of agency, guided by the sense of hope undiminished through their journeys. Regimes of cooperation is a spatial behavioral concept encompassing the everyday dynamics of cooperation, wherein refugee-led institutions create spaces for interaction between diverse refugees and other actors of resettlement, making cooperation an iterative, ongoing process rather than a formal or policy‑based exercise. Refugees cooperate to achieve well-being related to education, housing, healthcare, citizenship, and spirituality, closely supported by people and institutions that act as brokers within the larger networks of support that connect related providers to their recipients. This approach to studying cooperation invites attention to the importance of everyday peace and well-being and calls for exploring their physical dimensions. It entails observing how refugees become active makers of their new geographical landscapes by accessing various spaces and eventually managing, sustaining, and developing them. The study ties cooperation, hope, and well-being as observable phenomena that people actively engage with and cultivate while seeking to move beyond the traumas of violent displacement and perils of finding homes in far-off lands.


Date Modified


Defense Date


CIP Code

  • 30.0501

Research Director(s)

Catherine E. Bolten

Committee Members

Caroline Hughes Maurizio Albahari


  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

Alternate Identifier


OCLC Number


Additional Groups

  • Peace Studies
  • Anthropology

Program Name

  • Anthropology
  • Peace Studies

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