Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Terms of Use

© 2019 Ava Shafiei. All rights reserved. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Educational Studies Department, Political Science Department

First Advisor

Lisa Smulyan

Second Advisor

Emily Paddon Rhoads


This study problematizes the conceptualization of refugees as passive victims of structural violence by recentering the voices of resettled refugees and their articulations of agency. Using semi-structured interviews with resettled Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Philadelphia and employees at a Philadelphia nonprofit that provides social services for immigrants and refugees, I examine how resettled refugees understand structures of formal schooling and citizenship as well as their articulations of agency. Through these interviews I found that resettled Syrian and Iraqi refugees rejected structures of citizenship and formal schooling and did not feel agency in participation within these structures. Instead, participants articulated agency primarily through their personal identities. This agency was articulated as the power from within, consciousness within constraints, or agency within structures. This work points to the need for further research that recenters the particularities of the resettled refugee identity, underscoring the ways in which the refugee identity is configured in complex, particular, and individualized ways across contexts.