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Collaborating with refugee and immigrant communities: Reflections of an outsider

Dale M Jones, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation is a narrative self-representation of my professional experiences working as an outsider within two immigrant and refugee communities in Massachusetts. This study represents and illustrates my experience within the world of education and the personal transformation that took place during my encounters. The narrative focuses upon the interactions among the cultural liaisons, project participants and myself, and the profound effect that these experiences had upon my personal and professional research and practice. This study shows how diligent researcher praxis allowed for the alterations in my practice and research through acknowledging and deciphering fine points of the insider/outsider dimension and cultural differences. A variety of themes and issues are articulated after careful analysis of the narrative. Assertions regarding the application of the emic and etic theory are woven throughout the narrative reconstruction of events. The learning contexts are community development projects that I participated in and built relationships with those from other cultures. I use the story telling component to relay messages of importance regarding the cultural assumptions and judgments that possibly cloud or brighten the development of good interpersonal and business relationships with people from cultures other than one's own. The research ascertained a variety of themes and issues were present in my project experiences. These are: personal challenges, insider/outsider dimension, cultural issues, and relational trust building. From these themes I concluded that three main characteristics existed in relation to culture and insider/outsider theory. They are: (1) Insider/outsider relations are vigorous. (2) Insider/outsider relations are versatile. (3) Insider/outsider relations are rooted in context and influenced by politics and economics. Insider/outsider characteristics were identified for research consideration, and to provide more efficient organization. These elements can be considered to be sensitizing concepts, which allow for a bridge of understanding to be created. By identifying these characteristics, people can see clearly where they are in relation to the other(s). Clearly identifying these characteristics allows for multiple levels of understanding to occur both for the insider and the outsider. This appreciation provided me with the preparation necessary to work among others from different cultures, with different beliefs and different practices.

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Jones, Dale M, "Collaborating with refugee and immigrant communities: Reflections of an outsider" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3136742.