In social sciences, the study of marginalized groups is oftentimes solution-oriented or policy-related and therefore it seems natural to start with a problem to be solved as a research premise. But if the idea is to use research as a tool to improve the quality of life of studied populations, it appears counterintuitive to neglect what contributes to the subjective well-being of individuals and groups regardless of, or, even more interestingly, as a result of, their life circumstances including their social environment. Although quite a few studies have looked into the concept of resiliency in refugee and underprivileged populations, fewer studies have tackled the notions of well-being and sense of community in relation to their sociocultural contexts. Indeed, most studies have pivoted primarily around the negative factors that hamper the overall quality of life of refugees and none have yet to address, from an intersectional and cross-cultural perspective as well as from a positive standpoint, all the dimensions – women, refugees, slum dwellers, developing countries, well-being and sense of community – this research suggest to explore.
This study aims to distance itself from the negative aspects of the lives of marginalized refugee populations in order to take a more balanced approach in understanding their reality and consequently, their needs. Moreover, it seeks to answer the following questions: what does well-being and sense of community mean for Rohingya and Congolese refugee women, respectively living in the slums of New Delhi and Rio de Janeiro; what is the interplay between their well-being and sense of community; what is the role played by host communities in their well-being from their own perspective, and what are the differences and similarities between both groups in the meaning and value they attribute to well-being and sense of community within their new sociocultural environment.
By combining quantitative and qualitative methods this three-fold research project investigates the concepts of subjective well-being and sense of community using a survey, semi-directed interviews and photovoice. This multi-method approach has two main objectives, the first is to reinforce findings via triangulation, and the second, is to contribute to the empowerment of the respondents through skill development and direct involvement in their own representation using photovoice and digital storytelling. First, two scales – the Comprehensive Inventory of Thriving (CIT) (Su, Tay & Diener, 2014) and the Revised Sense of Community Index, SCI-2 (Chavis, Lee & Acosta, 2008) – used to produce a more objective measure of the women’s subjective well-being and psychological sense of community, and to observe the variances among and between the groups have been selected. Subsequently, semi-structured interviews employed to deepen the understanding of the instrument-related findings will be complemented by participant-generated photography. Moreover, in this last phase of the research project, participants will have the opportunity to share their photographs as part of a community-based digital storytelling project conducted by the researcher in collaboration with two local NGOs. Finally, vertical, within each group, and horizontal, across both groups, analyses will be carried in order to answer all research questions.
Géraldine Jourdain is a PhD candidate in Community Psychology at International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. She holds a MA in International Relations from Waseda University (Tokyo) and a MSc. in Criminology from Université de Montréal. Her research interests include refugees, especially those located in developing countries, human trafficking including sexual and labor exploitation, and the well-being and sense of community of forcibly displaced populations. She has conducted research in Canada, Malaysia, Japan, Nepal, India and Brazil. She is a full recipient of a Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT) scholarship.