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Studies in Migration Worldwide


Held but Not On Hold: Toward an Archive of Refugee Materiality

Bennett Sherry


     The practice of recording recent histories of forced migration—the practice of collecting, analyzing, and telling the stories of refugees and displaced persons—requires a global perspective and the active creation, by historians, of an archive of things and of stories. Engaging explicitly with the materiality of the refugee experience offers historians the opportunity to move beyond narratives of power, to explore the ways in which refugees experienced the trauma of forced migrations and to uncover how they continued to live their lives. The proliferation of digital humanities projects at universities in recent years offers particularly promising opportunities for historians to become active participants in the collection and preservation of living archives of materiality.

     Materiality signifies more than simply artifacts or the accumulation of material culture. These material properties are an important piece, but to examine materiality is also to understand the complex human interactions with material culture and how the resulting interpretations impact human and societal relationships.1 This article will discuss the materiality of the refugee experience through the objects and symbols that are assigned to refugees and which are adopted by them. It will treat the refugees who fled from Bhutan to Nepal in the early 1990s as a case study.2 More specifically, this article centers on Bhutanese refugees who have resettled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania since 2008, and the ways in which the particularities of this group might help to reveal generalities of materiality in the global experience of refugees more broadly.3 Though this case study is quite recent, there are important lessons for future archival activities that historians might glean from its examples. By examining this recent, well-documented case study, we can uncover sites of historical inquiry about the materiality of earlier migrations.

     Refugee materiality is here defined as a process of interactions between individuals and the objects and places they encounter during forced migration that impact the manner in which they move through space. To fully conceptualize the movements of refugees on their own terms, it is necessary to understand the mechanics, connections, interactions, and global conjunctures that determine and define refugee mobility. This set of links calls for a perspective that transcends regional and nation-state geographic designations, but which remains aware of the centrality of the power dynamic between states and the stateless in the global refugee regime. I adopt this perspective in order to engage more deeply with three concepts relating to refugee materiality as defined above. The first section examines one possible method for conceptualizing the materiality of forced migration within complex understandings of space and the production of place. The second explores the inherent power dynamics between states and refugees as an integral part of the ways in which Bhutanese refugees have interacted with places and objects. An increased focus on the material realities of refugee life offers an opportunity to uncover sites of refugee action and how these actions are involved in resistance and identification. The final section attempts to highlight the archival difficulties of conducting historical research on mobile groups and argues that, in order to understand these groups on their own terms, historians must transition from thinking of themselves solely as users of archives and become active participants in the creation of material archives of mobility.

A Global Refugee Materiality

Utilizing complex conceptions of space can help us avoid representing history as linear and thereby describing refugee life in static terms. To fully contextualize refugee space and place in evolving geographies—physical, political, cultural—the historian must employ a global approach to space. The twentieth century witnessed the consolidation and formalization of what scholars now call the international—or global—refugee regime.4 Alexander Betts defines the global refugee regime around the activities of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and its 1951Convention, with "parallel" endeavors included where their activities overlap with the UNHCR purview.5 This intersecting structure he terms the "refugee regime complex." The term "global" refugee regime is preferable to the more common "international" refugee regime. The latter term places the center of gravity in the regime at the intersections of nation-state relations. This conception runs the risk of treating inter- and non-governmental organizations as secondary or tertiary actors and of considering refugees themselves not at all.

     Crossing state borders and navigating multiple levels of power structures have always been part of forced migration; however, in the past century, the evolving nature of the refugee regime has created massive movements of people over the entirety of the globe. The structures that facilitate these migrations are global in scope and involve complex levels of interactions. These are structures that refugees are forced to navigate as a part of daily life.6

     One possible interpretation of materiality in the refugee experience is a layering process of cultural accumulation, interspersed with the rupture of displacement. During the latter, materiality is frequently composed of whatever an individual can carry. Materialities of refugee migration are inscribed with unique spatial experiences which layer and compound over time into evolving and individual material cultures. As refugees move across space they take part in a dynamic negotiation between encounters with new cultures and preservation of their own. Layering of materiality is particularly evident in clothing, commercial consumption, and performative culture. Historians should use these tangible things as a means to explore more nuanced ways that people move through space.

     The United States has accepted over 66,000 of the 100,000 Bhutanese resettled to third countries.7 Pittsburgh is now home to 3000-5000 Bhutanese refugees. Of these, the majority were resettled in another city in the U.S. and relocated to Pittsburgh on their own initiative.8 In a 2013 article about Pittsburgh's World Refugee celebration, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette highlighted the "blend of cultures," including "native Bhutanese dances" and American "hip-hop lyrics rapped in Swahili."9 The clothing of average Bhutanese refugee families is particularly revealing of the layering process of materiality. Both in the camps in Nepal and post-resettlement, families and individuals wear clothing that represents a blending of cultures. The older generations tend to retain more markers of their traditional clothing, while the younger generation, having grown up in refugee camps, is more likely to wear western-style clothing, which might be produced in China or Southeast Asia, shipped to American retail stores, and worn by an American before being donated and shipped to the refugee camps. Generally speaking, post-resettlement, older women are more likely than older men to continue to wear traditional dress.

     While layering may be a useful metaphor, it is a mistake to extend it too far and treat the process of material accumulation as stratification in the geological sense. This is not a stratification process where one layer of culture settles upon another, solidifies and nullifies. Rather, in the refugee experience, this layering of materiality is dynamic and interactive and involves an essential process of active assemblage on the part of individual actors as they move spatially and temporally. For this reason, a proper conceptualization of space and place in the refugee experience is required to understand the various ways that refugees interact with their shifting material world. Geographer Doreen Massey provides a conception of space that is applicable to the refugee experience:

[Space] is constructed out of a particular constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus. . . . Instead then, of thinking of places as areas with boundaries around, they can be imagined as articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings, but where a larger proportion of those relations, experience and understandings are constructed on a far larger scale than what we happen to define for that moment as the place itself. . . . This in turn allows a sense of place which is extroverted, which includes a consciousness of its links with the wider world, which integrates in a positive way the global and the local. . . . Places are processes.10

Consider one hypothetical Bhutanese refugee experience that is not uncommon: a young boy in south Bhutan is forced to flee his home in the 1990s. He traverses a narrow stretch of India before being taken to Beldangi 1 refugee camp in Nepal. As a child in the camps he travels to the Jhapa district of Nepal for school. After a decade in the camps, he travels to Malaysia to work in a factory. When he returns to Nepal in 2006, he continues his education in India while teaching English classes in Nepal. Then, in 2008, he is granted refugee status and resettled to the United States. He is given a loan by the U.S. government for airfare, departs from Kathmandu airport, and arrives at the Fargo, ND airport. He lives and works in North Dakota for several months, but his family or friends or love interest has been resettled to Pittsburgh. When he is able to get a loan from family members, he boards a bus to Pennsylvania. We can chart a rough map of this man's international movements during his time as a refugee. He crosses borders and oceans; shifts between and through state authorities; and is at various times moving legally and illegally. Of course, the map that this produces gives only an illusion of movement; it would not accurately represent space. Represented in such a manner, movement is merely an abstract representation of connections among nodes. It does not show the "constellations" of relations and connections that facilitate this man's movement, nor does it provide a depiction of the integration of local and global. It is here that considering materiality in migrations might afford us an opportunity to dissect the nature of space creation.

     Refugees are part of forced migrations that include displacement and a strong sense of rupture. We should not present refugee interaction with place as dependent on and defined by the artificial state borders within and through which they move. Refugee places, as a category of analysis, do not require state boundaries except as a means for states to define them. Rather, conceptualizing forced migration requires the realization that refugee groups exist within a continuous and complex process of place-making that includes interactions and connections at levels from the individual to the global. Further, refugee groups, whether mobile or immobile at a particular time and place, should not be regarded as a single static identity, but as sites of intersecting and conflicted processes of identification.11

     In protracted refugee situations, like that of the Bhutanese, academic, humanitarian, and media sources have a tendency to project stasis onto conditions of immobility in order to emphasize the trauma of the experience.12 In academic refugee studies, in the media, and in popular culture, protracted refugee situations, like that of the Bhutanese, are portrayed as a kind of limbo. While this vision is, in a manner of speaking, correct, it misrepresents the daily lives of refugees themselves, presenting the state-level resettlement or repatriation struggles as the defining feature of refugee identification. Protracted displacement in refugee camps is, of course, not a desirable existence. Some of the refugees who experience the pain of displacement and the anxiety—at times even boredom—of an uncertain future might feel that their lives as they had once conceived them are on hold; however, as much as their lives might seem in limbo, we should not treat these perceptions as facts. Even in something as mundane as the consumption of mass media in the camps we find complex interactions that shape refugee life. Among the limited possessions of refugees, radios have become an integral part of camp and diaspora communities that connects the local and global. Refugees both listen to and produce radio programing. The program, "Saranarthi Sundesh," which means, "the message of the refugees," features refugee voices, but is produced by a citizen of Nepal and funded by an organization headquartered in the United States. In the UNHCR's publication, New Issues in Refugee Research, Priya Govindaraj argues that radio provides "a framework for daily life, structuring the domestic space and community…it impacts [the refugees'] relationship with time and contributes to a sense of home. " Equally significant, radio "bridges refugees within the camps and to the diaspora" while also contributing "to the formation of refugees' imagined futures" when they leave the camps.13 In doing something as simple as listening to a radio, refugees are actively engaged in creating home and expanding their engagement with the wider world.

     The lives of refugees in protracted displacement are difficult and painful, but they have not stopped. And in regards to the work of historians actively interested in documenting present and historical instances of displacement, this is a critical distinction. Refugees might eagerly anticipate resettlement and a new life; however, while they live in camps, their lives are not on hold. Refugees, like any population, continue to strive to meet goals, to feed and protect themselves, and they create new meanings and representations of home.

     Over 100,000 Bhutanese fled to Nepal in 1990, and most waited almost two decades in one of seven refugee camps before being resettled permanently to third countries. An award-winning documentary entitled, "Killing Time," emphasizes the agony of waiting and the uncertainty of lives on hold. While descriptors like "living in exile," "lives on hold," and "limbo," are not, in a theoretical sense, incorrect, they do not provide precise and literal depictions of refugee life. This is not to say that in the field of Refugee Studies and other policy-oriented fields, these representations are ill-advised or inaccurate; the need to highlight the trauma of displacement and lives derailed is an important aspect of addressing the monumental challenge of human displacement in the twenty-first century. For the historian, though, and certainly for the world historian, there is immense value in understanding the complexity and agency of refugee lives. The materiality through which refugees interact with their world is a promising lens through which to view the dynamism of lives that might otherwise seem passive.

     In her anthropological study of Karenni refugees in Thailand, Materializing Exile, Sandra Dudley encourages attention to the "microscopic scale of human, cultural experience and adaptation" as a method to reveal cultural continuity and adaptation after the rupture of forced migration.14 Dudley's intervention is an important example of how materiality may be used as a lens to uncover how refugees continue their lives through the rupture and trauma of forced migration. Rather than focusing her analysis on the "limbo-like situation that one might imagine would engender apathy and inactivity," Dudley instead seeks ways that the refugees personalize and domesticate "the camp and [articulate] it as more of a place to live rather than just somewhere to be in limbo."15

     We should not discount the pain of forced migration and protracted displacement; refugee lives, however, are not defined by this alone. Life in the camps requires negotiation of national and international structures and an adaptation to new material conditions and power dynamics. It is this element that makes the experience of refugees atypical. All migrants adopt and layer material culture in personal assemblages, but refugees are also forced to navigate an asymmetric power relation with nation states and international organizations that attempt to impose symbols and definitions. The ways that refugees respond to this dynamic reveals the actions underlying conditions of apparent limbo.

States and Refugees

In refugee movements, power dynamics permeate all levels of material and cultural accumulation. Refugee materiality is a process derived from the intense experience of forced mobility; it is a fluid and evolving concept. States, however, tend to remain, or at least attempt to remain, fixed. At the level of policy, state agents conceive of their interaction with refugees as a one-way process of inscription and categorization. The relationship between refugees and states is one of the most powerful in the experience of forced migration. By examining this relationship through the lens of materiality, we can uncover the unspoken and undocumented methods by which states control the movement of people.

     States have a clear interest in defining, counting, and controlling people within stable social structures and static geographic borders. Taxation, national defense, and more recently, antiterrorism, all require efficient categorization of people under the state's protection and control.16 In international law since 1951, refugees are partly defined by crossing a state border. This definition of course leaves out the vast majority of Internally Displaced Persons, who remain within their state borders and are not extended the same international protections as refugees. States at all levels of interaction with the refugee regime often have interests in whether a group is labeled as refugee—and whether and where group members are resettled. States that generate refugees from within their own borders have a clear interest in denying that the people fleeing are refugees.17 The three official goals of refugee resettlement are, in order of priority: the return of the refugees to their home nation, permanent settlement in the nation of asylum and, as a last resort, resettlement in a third host country with refugee status. In the case of nations of asylum, refugees may be denied entry, as in the case of the Bhutanese refugees in India, or they may have their rights severely curtailed, as was the case when the Bhutanese refugees were resettled in Nepal's camps.18 The Nepali government, facing its own domestic challenges, refused to allow the Bhutanese to resettle permanently in Nepal.19 Finally, the countries that offer resettlement to refugees—primarily wealthy nations in North America, Europe, and Australia—set limits on the number of refugees they agree to accept for permanent resettlement, lest they face domestic political opposition.20

     State governments and international organizations are prone to assign symbols and categories to stateless and mobile people in efforts to categorize and assert control. This is not to dismiss the crucial humanitarian aspects of refugee assistance, but these are definitions that are aimed at bringing statehood to stateless groups operating outside state zones of control. In protracted refugee situations, refugees must simultaneously navigate state governments and more ambiguous international structures and organizations. In refugee camps, the system in which refugees operate is complex and features competing levels of authority from NGOs to states and intergovernmental organizations. From the basics of sustenance and shelter to international resettlement, refugees interact with bewildering constellations of power and humanitarian aid.

     Several iconic materialities of the Bhutanese refugee experience highlight ways in which states and interstate organizations impose or seek to impose category and control on refugee groups and how refugees may act to navigate and co-opt this process. Three stand out: concrete posts in Nepal's refugee camps; white and blue International Organization for Migration (IOM) bags; and refugee documentation both before and after resettlement. Categorization as a refugee has both conceptual and tangible significance. States attempt to categorize fundamentally mobile groups with symbols: concrete posts are markers of a semi-permanent life in refugee camps that were intended to be temporary; IOM bags act as a signifier of refugees in crowded airports; forms of identification assign a new nation of residence, attempting to transform stateless and mobile migrants into defined and fixed constituents.

     In the past decade massive fires have swept through several of Nepal's refugee camps. In the aftermath of fires at the Goldhap and Beldangi camps in eastern Nepal, the flames consumed the limited material goods of the camp's residents but exposed fields of concrete posts. Against a burnt landscape, these posts still stood; had the fires occurred ten years earlier, when the camps were still relatively new, nothing of the refugee shelters would have remained standing.21 These posts are significant as a site of refugee co-option of state constraints. When the camps first opened, the administration allowed only temporary structures. These temporary shelters were initially constructed of bamboo, which was not durable and required replacement after about a year. After a decade of life in the camps, refugees started constructing these more durable concrete posts with money they had saved. As a frame for temporary shelters the concrete posts were far more effective and soon became ubiquitous. Neither the humanitarian agencies, the UNHCR, nor the Nepali government financed the construction of these posts, and their construction required the refugees to negotiate ambiguous camp policies.22

Figure 1
  Fire exposes concrete posts in Goldhap camp.
On March 22, 2011 two separate fires swept through Golhap and Sanischare refugee camps in Eastern Nepal, displacing over 5,000 refugees. The blazes exposed fields of concrete posts while consuming the bamboo and wood from which the rest of the shelters were constructed. Refugees worked with local police, using fire equipment from nearby towns, to fight the fires. The fires exposed not only the concrete posts; they revealed the complex network of states, organizations, and individuals through whom emergency relief is provided in refugee camps. In addition to the Nepali police working with camp residents to battle the immediacy of the blaze, the UNHCR and its numerous NGO partners in Nepal provided long term emergency relief while the camps were rebuilt.

Photo Credit: Nini Gurung, "Fires Leave Some 5,000 Refugees Homeless in Camps in Nepal," UNHCR News Stories (Kathmandu: UNHCR, 2011)

     Another example of a materiality that acts as a symbol of definitions for refugees consists of white and blue plastic bags that refugees are given by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Though not a state government itself, the IOM is an intergovernmental organization with some 156 member states.23 When refugees depart for the United States or another refugee host nation, they are given their travel documents, identification, and medical documentation in these bags. While traveling, refugee babies will often have a large white and blue sticker placed on their back, while everyone in the family is expected to wear IOM badges. When they leave Nepal, the refugees are all given the same black duffel bags to carry whatever belongings they can fit inside. Depending on relative wealth while in the camps, these bags are lighter or heavier, but they all are marked with IOM tags. These may not be purposeful acts of ascription, but in practice, when refugees arrive at American airports, the caseworkers from resettlement agencies are able to identify refugees by these bags. The bags act as markers of difference and, in a way, assign ownership and responsibility of the refugees to the IOM during their period of transit.24

     Perhaps the most important piece of materiality assigned to refugees as a form of definition and categorization are the forms of identification and documentation required by states and international organizations. The possession or lack of the correct documents is often a determining factor for finding work. In Nepal, the Bhutanese are not accorded refugee status by the Nepali government. This means that, unlike refugees from Tibet, they are denied the required documentation to work outside of the camps. Nepal's lax immigration and labor policies, however, make it possible for the Bhutanese refugees to travel and work illegally in India, Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries in the region as teachers, laborers, and service workers.25

     Post-resettlement in the U.S., documentation only becomes more essential and more part of the process of state assignment of definition and categories to refugees. Identification is required to open a bank account, rent an apartment, get a job. After one year, refugees can apply for their green card; after five, they can apply for citizenship. At each level, new forms of identification are issued by state and federal governments. Even in the United States, there are instances of operating around and sometimes against the strictures of state requirements. In 2013, a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation official was charged with accepting bribes in exchange for giving passing grades on driver's license exams to over 340 people, the vast majority of whom were Bhutanese refugees.26

     There are a variety of other ways in which refugees have navigated the authority structures of camp life. In Nepal, refugees often act as volunteers for the relief organizations, providing social work, distributing food and provisions, and contributing to awareness campaigns.27 Refugee co-option of restraints can be less constructive. In Nepal's Sanischare camp, refugees contributed to the deforestation of the surrounding terrain.28 These and other activities should be examined as sites of materiality and used to reveal the dynamic ways that refugees navigate the authority structures of camp life. The above examples illustrate attempts both deliberate and otherwise to assign symbols and markers to refugees. In the instances of the concrete posts and state documentation, we have examples of refugees' role in defining their own experience by co-opting materialities of displacement. By applying a material lens to our examination of state policies toward mobile groups, we can reveal important areas of control, conflict, and resistance.

Toward an Archive of Mobility

What then are the implications for historical research on refugee materiality? How ought historians conduct studies on groups whose place is complex, fluid, and difficult to locate and whose historical experience is collected, defined, and preserved by states? Thinking about the challenges of archiving and researching refugee populations reveals an important trajectory for the historical field. Historians should begin to think of themselves not only as users of archives, but as makers and shapers of them. Especially today, when digital and material culture are so entangled, the opportunities for doing this are many.

     First, and perhaps most critical, we must take advantage of the example provided by contemporary cases like that of the Bhutanese refugees. Historians should act quickly in refugee crises to ensure that the material experience of these people in a state of rupture and mobility is not lost. Understandably, states and humanitarian organizations have as a primary goal the protection and welfare of human lives. The documents that survive in the historical record about refugee migrations are often not constructed with a mind toward long-term historical preservation and even less to examining materiality. But these objects and places are an important part of individual and group stories. To diaspora communities and their descendants, these are not trivial matters.

     The internet provides new methods for collecting history online, and digital humanities projects that are expanding in universities provide important new pathways toward the creation of archives of things and stories. The creation of a living archive online is one opportunity to blend the digital and material. The creation of websites that allow individuals to submit surveys, narratives, original documents, and digital depictions of material culture allows the collection of historical material, which might otherwise be lost without the intervention of historians.29 So much of modern life exists in digital form. Historians need to collect and preserve these digital materials before they are deleted or lost. This is doubly true in the case of refugees, whose experiences may be brief or protracted, but which are always traumatic.30

     Of critical importance in the collection and preservation of these stories is the engagement of the historian with refugee groups and of these people with their own stories. In essence, this is more than simply collecting images or representations of photographs—though this is an integral part—it is collecting and correlating objects with the memories of those who carried them. Such correlation does not require remarkable objects. Indeed, the seemingly mundane articles that people choose to retain, how they decide to use them, and how these choices evolve can provide important insights into facets of refugee life, both ordinary and extraordinary.

     Diasporas of the past century and their descendants have been very active in the creation of their own archives, media, and online repositories. The Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh maintains a website with images and background information and even recorded its first census in 2013; however, these activities are directed more toward community cohesiveness than long-term historical preservation and integration with the archives of other diasporas.31 Refugee group identification is a rapidly shifting generational process that complicates this issue. It is a conflicted process. In the case of refugees from Bhutan, there is no consensus on what the community is, much less what it should become. Younger generations—those born or who grew up in the camps in Nepal—call themselves Nepali, while the elders, who had lives in Bhutan before 1990, still call themselves Bhutanese. Even in this relatively recent refugee migration, voices, remembrances, and materials of the past are already being lost as the diaspora population continues to age.

     Innovative and creative methods are required to address historical research on refugee materiality. Historians must broaden their source material beyond traditional archives. Oral histories and archeological evidence are two critical areas to uncover new sources. Combined with innovative collection, digital methods offer a great deal of opportunity for both preservation and analysis. We will always be limited by the scarcity of historical documentation of material culture; however, if historians take an active role in preserving and collecting contemporary stories and material, we might ensure a more complete picture for future generations.

     In historical analysis, historians should treat life in protracted refugee situations not as life on hold, but as life changed and continued. This requires the ability for the historian to transition from the humanitarian language of aid groups and policy to language that contextualizes the refugee experience historically and seeks to document the reality of lives lived for what they were, not what they were not. Otherwise, there is a risk that the history that is preserved will be the stories of states, of humanitarian organizations, of victimhood, rather than the stories of the refugees themselves—lives lived on their own terms.

Bennett Sherry is a Ph.D. student in World History at the University of Pittsburgh. His research interests center around the formalization of the global refugee regime in the twentieth century and the impact of refugee food aid on human rights discourse. He has worked directly with refugees resettled to the Pittsburgh area. He may be reached at


1 In recent decades, scholars have moved beyond thinking of materiality merely as material artifacts that act as barriers to human relationships. Increasingly, these broader definitions of materiality have been linked by scholars to emerging debates in the digital humanities. Katherine Hayles calls materiality an emergent property, which "depends on how the work mobilizes its resources as a physical artifact as well as the user's interactions with the work and the interpretive strategies she develops. . . . Materiality emerges from the dynamic interplay between the richness of a physically robust world and human intelligence as it crafts this physicality to create meaning." Katherine Hayles, in Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination, ed. Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2008), 9-10. See also Daniel Miller, "Materiality: An Introduction," in Materiality, ed. Daniel Miller (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005); and Johanna Drucker, The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909-1923 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).

2 The people of Southern Bhutan, called "Lhotshampa," which means "southerner," in contrast with the other ethnic groups of the country, practice Hinduism and are ethnically Nepali. They were forced to flee Bhutan due to persecution on these grounds. For an overview of the situation in Bhutan that led up to the displacement and which portrays repatriation as unlikely, see Susan Banki, "Resettlement of the Bhutanese from Nepal: The Durable Solution Discourse," in Protracted Displacement in Asia: No Place to Call Home, ed. Howard Adelman (Abingdon: Ashgate Publishing, 2008), 29-35; and Mahendra P. Lama, "Bhutanese Refugees in Nepal," in Protracted Refugee Situations: Political, Human Rights and Security Implications, ed. Gil Loescher, et. al. (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2008), 277-285.

3 The author worked and volunteered directly with this population through a Pittsburgh refugee resettlement agency and draws from that experience in this article.

4 Randy Lippert, "Governing Refugees: The Relevance of Governmentality to Understanding the International Refugee Regime," Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 24 (1999), 299-303.

5 Alexander Betts, "Institutional Proliferation and the Global Refugee Regime," Perspectives on Politics 7 (2009), 55. For instance, the IOM is not explicitly an organization of the refugee regime, but it undertakes agendas and activities that overlap and intersect with UNHCR agendas, thus drawing it partly within the structure of the global refugee regime.

6 For an overview of material culture and migration in world history, see Patrick Manning with Tiffany Trimmer, Migration in World History 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2013), 129-131, 182. Manning points out that material culture often changed as it moved. In the case of refugees, the same is true; however, rather than a gradual process of exchange, refugee materiality is one of more immediate adaptation.

7 Nini Gurung, "Refugee Resettlement Referral from Nepal Reaches Six-figure Mark," United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, April 26, 2013,; Yidhyapati Mishra, "Bhutan is no Shangri-La," New York Times, June 28, 2013, .

8 New America Media puts the Pittsburgh Bhutanese refugee population at 4,000-5,000, while the Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh's informal 2013 census places the number closer to 3,000. Erika Beras, "When a New Home Means a New Diet, Health Problems Can Arise for Refugees," New America Media, 13 January 2014,; Uma Gautam, "Bhutanese Census," July 2013.

9 Jacob Axelrad, "Refugees in Pittsburgh Celebrate Their Heritage: Observance Marks Blend of Cultures Following Relocation," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 23, 2013,

10 Doreen Massey, Space, Place, and Gender (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 154-155.

11 Rogers Brubaker and Frederick J. Cooper, "Beyond Identity," Theory and Society 29 (2000): 14-17.

12 The UNHCR defines a protracted refugee situation as a refugee situation where no durable solution has been found within five years. Howard Adelman, "Protracted Displacement," in Adelman, Protracted Displacement in Asia,, 1-2. Doreen Massey points out the problems of equating time with progress and movement and space/place with stasis and reaction. Massey, Space, Place, and Gender 152.

13 Priya Govindaraj, "Waves of Life: The Role of Radio in Bhutanese Refugee Camps in Nepal," UNHCR Policy Development and Evaluation Service, New Issues in Refugee Research 258 (July 2013), 13.

14 Sandra Dudley, Materialising Exile: Material Culture and Embodied Experience among Karenni Refugees in Thailand (New York: Berghahn Books, 2010), 1-2.

15 Ibid, 58, 37.

16 Reşat Kasaba, A Moveable Empire: Ottoman Nomads, Migrants & Refugees (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009), 123.

17 Banki, "Resettlement," 39-40; and "'Outsiders' Issue," in Economic & Political Weekly, 31 (1996), 373. The Bhutanese government remains adamant that the refugees left Bhutan voluntarily, which mitigates the government's responsibility to provide repatriation options.

18 A country of asylum might maintain different policies for different refugee groups. For instance, the Nepali government allowed a much greater degree of integration for Tibetan refugees to Nepal, despite the fact that the Bhutanese refugees were linguistically and ethnically closer to the local population of eastern Nepal. Banki, "Resettlement," 31.

19 Banki, "Resettlement," 40-42.

20 Betts, "Institutional Proliferation and the Global Refugee Regime," 57.

21 Nini Gurung, UNHCR Rushes Supplies to Fire-Gutted Camp in Nepal, United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, November 12, 2007,; "Fire Razes Refugee Camp in Nepal; Aid Rushed to the Homeless," United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, March 3, 2014, .

22 Sancha Man Rai, e-mail interview with the author, February 17, 2014.

23 "Members and Observers," International Organization for Migration, accessed: June 25, 2014,

24 Author interview with Pittsburgh area resettlement agency staff, February 17, 2014.

25 Banki, "Resettlement of the Bhutanese from Nepal," 31-33.

26 Liz Zemba, "Police: Fayette man took money in exchange for passing grades on driver's tests," Trib Live News, December 12, 2013,

27 "Camp Information," Bhutanese Refugees: The Story of a Forgotten People, .

28 Mahendra P. Lama, "Bhutanese Refugees in Nepal," in Loescher, Protracted Refugee Situations, 288.

29 Daniel Cohen provides advice and instructions for the creation of such a digital archive. Daniel Cohen, "Collecting History Online," in Clio Wired the Future of the Past in the Digital Age, ed. Roy Rosenzweig (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).

30 Two notable examples of this method are The Iraq Memory Foundation and the September 11 Digital Archive.

31 Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh, .

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