Constructing gender: Refugee women working in the United States

Jill Koyama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Drawing on data collected during a 26-month ethnographic study of refugees in a city in upstate New York, I examine the gendered and gendering training and work contexts with which refugee women engage. Utilizing the notion of assemblage, a term often associated with actor-network theory (ANT), I ask, among other questions, how do the gathered collages of texts, aims, histories, resources, knowledges, and practices that instantiate what we might recognize as resources for newcomers, come to frame refugee women as they enter the workforce? I demonstrate that through the processes of becoming employed, certain material objects, such as completed job applications, combine with case workers' assessments of employability, and employers' ethnic and gender stereotypes, to create socio-material renderings of refugee women. However, even as they participate in the labour market, the refugee women push against the constraints imposed by their limited English-language ability, lack of formal education, initial lack of socio-economic connections, culturally-defined gender roles, and gender stereotypes. I argue that greater efforts through changes in the national policy and also the related practices of local resettlement agencies should address gender more explicitly. Greater time investment in educational programmes, a longer period of workforce training in more varied, less genderstereotypical areas, and explicit programmes educating the receiving community about the refugees could result not only in greater economic adaptation, but also increased social integration for refugee women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-275
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Refugee Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Actor-network theory
  • Assemblage
  • Employment
  • Gender
  • Labour market
  • Refugees
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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