New Books Network

Catherine L. Besteman

Making Refuge

Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine

Duke University Press 2016

New Books in African StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in AnthropologyNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network January 21, 2020 Susan Thomson

Catherine L. Besteman‘s book Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine (Duke University Press, 2016) is an important contribution to our understanding of...

Catherine L. Besteman‘s book Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine (Duke University Press, 2016) is an important contribution to our understanding of the process of remaking one’s way of life after war in a new place, and in a new culture. Besteman writes about her ethnographic encounter in the 1980s with Somalis from the village of Banta who she then re-encounters in 2006 in the town of Lewiston, the so-called “Armpit of Maine.” The result is an intimate account of the trajectory of Somali Bantus from their home in the Jubba Valley, their experience flight to refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and their eventual relocation to cities and towns in the United States. Readers also learn that assimilation is not just a one-sided affair, as Besteman narrates how the arrival of Somali Bantus in Lewiston impacts residents there, neighbors and government officials alike. As such, Making Refuge reminds us that resettlement is more than the arrival of refugees; it is also a process by which receiving communities adapt to their foreign neighbors. In other words, Besteman’s work is a study of mutual transformation.


Susan Thomson is associate professor of peace and conflict studies at Colgate University.