Becoming Gold: Understanding the Post-war Narratives of Transformation of African Immigrants and Refugees -- Yabome Gilpin-Jackson
Wars and armed conflicts on the African continent since the latter half of the 20th century have resulted in the displacement of millions of people. Many are internally displaced; others have become refugees and immigrants on and off the continent. Post-war development research has centered on the macro, socio-economic, and political aspects of the humanitarian crisis, leaving a gap in research on the psychosocial needs of post-war African peoples. Moreover, available research is based on exploring trauma and posttraumatic stress outcomes, with little attention being given to post-war growth and development potentials. As such, my research question was: How do African war survivors describe their growth and development experiences?
Narrative inquiry was used to explore this question. Narratives were drawn from 12 interviews of African war survivors in Canada, and 6 published autobiographical texts of survivors living in Canada, United States, and England. The narratives represented post-war accounts from Burundi, Congo-Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan (South Sudan and Darfur), and Uganda. Narrative analysis was conducted using the zoom model to understand themes that emerged from the interviews as well as themes based on the narrative construction approach to posttraumatic growth (PTG).
The findings showed that participants construct their post-war narratives within dominant sociocultural discourses of holistic knowing, social norms of family, community, and taboos, utilising the narrative form of storytelling. Six themes of a post-war narrative of transformation emerged from the study: (1) Resonance as transformative learning moment, (2) Realizing purpose in the post-war narrative, (3) Social consciousness as an outcome of post-war learning, (4) Determination as the will to achieve post-war goals, (5) Spiritual and moral development, and (6) Value of life.
The study confirmed that PTG applied cross-culturally to the African participants of diverse backgrounds and showed that affective resonance experiences, which opens space for transformative learning, is the pivotal core of the PTG process. I propose a model to guide post-war psychosocial development that conceptualises the cognitive PTG and affective resonance processes as parallel streams of the experience. The model accounts for important socioculturally specific and contextual influences on the growth of African war survivors.
KEYWORDS: Transformation, transformative/transformational learning, Posttraumatic Growth (PTG), psychosocial development, war survivors, African human development, African immigrants and refugees