Refugees in the US are often seen as risk-takers-those who engage in potentially harmful behaviors that simultaneously provide opportunity; with their perceived weaknesses in English language training, overall education, and US cultural capital, refugees are also frequently situated as being ''at-risk'' of not adapting to their new contexts. In this article, which draws on a two year ethnographic study in a Northeastern city, I trouble the simultaneous positioning of refugees as risk-takers and as being at risk. National policies governing the integration of refugees reduce social and educational adaptation to economic self-sufficiency, resulting in the emergence of three threads of risk: the risk of refugees being dependent on government resources, the risk of refugees ''taking'' jobs from Americans, and the risk of refugees threatening national security. Here, I focus on the first two threads, which represent a dichotomy of risk narratives, but which also poise refugees as risks to the mythical/idealized quality of American life and economic wellbeing. I document refugees participating in ESL and career-readiness classes offered by local resettlement agencies to reveal how educators in both ESL and career classes employ the narrative of positive risk-taking to challenge the more negative risk discourses.
- Workforce training
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