Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Deborah A. Thomas


Up from the Dirt: Racializing Refuge, Rupture, and Repair in Philadelphia integrates archival research, ethnographic participant observation, and contemporary media analysis to examine practices of making refuge in Philadelphia, from a makeshift refugee camp stationed on an army base to homes in South Philadelphia. It is based upon two years of ethnographic fieldwork in a refugee resettlement agency and refugee-serving clinic, spiraling out from these sites to other spaces related to the making of refuge. Up from the Dirt underscores the importance of insights from Black studies to the critical study of these humanitarian practices; building upon existing work in medical anthropology, critical refugee studies, and critical ethnic studies, I argue that the specter of Blackness haunts all projects of making refuge in the United States. In complicating medical anthropological conceptions of humanitarianism, I build upon Black feminist scholarship which reveals how “the human” or “humanity” that is the object of humanitarianism is disciplined into full humans, not-quite-humans, and nonhumans. I situate emergent projects of United States citizenship within the racializing assemblages intrinsic to humanitarianism that differentially make, discipline, govern subjects through practices of care. I also further a methodological practice of relation in ethnographic research. This work analyses a variety of materials and data, from ethnographic observations to court cases, newspaper articles, popular culture, and other media. It is a project which reaches across time, enfolding temporalities within one another to question the newness of contemporary political realities. It also spans putatively separate racialized groups in its consideration of humanitarian practices, from the resettlement agency to the clinic and the court room. Throughout, I frame refuge as imbricated with displacement and violence, political economic considerations, and complex racial politics.