CAHSS Faculty Articles

Crossing a Raging River on a Shaky Branch: Chechen Women Refugees in the United States

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Journal of Conflict Management



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The Chechen War was a brutal conflict that has created, by some estimates, more than half a million refugees worldwide. An important goal in this research was to understand the life story and the lived experience of eight Chechen women refugees who survived the war in Chechnya. A descriptive phenomenological process coupled with a critical feminist approach were used in this interpretive study. The experiences of Chechen refugees, and especially Chechen women, have often been neglected in research on the war. When their experiences have been considered, Chechen women have been conceived of primarily as either helpless victims with little or no agency or as fanatical suicide bombers inspired by radical Islam, or both. Through rich descriptions, these participants unveiled the extent to which they were generative (concerned for the future and future generations). Generativity has been positively associated with well-being as well as social and political engagement. Interviewees revealed experiences of loss and anxiety during the war, and of struggling to survive. Once they arrived in the United States, participant experiences included economic hardship and cultural dislocation. Alongside these experiences, the women also experienced resistance, resilience, and generativity. The following nine major themes emerged from participants’ phenomenological life stories: Losses, War Trauma, Resistance, and Resilience, Struggling to Create a New Life, Faith, Gender, Ethnicity, and Generativity. Analysis of the narratives revealed similarities between Generativity and the themes of Faith and Ethnicity. This study presents an Integrative Interpretive Framework for understanding the lived experience of Chechen women.





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