Heba Gowayed. Refuge: How the State Shapes Human Potential

Hybrid 402 Soc Sci Bldg & Zoom

Drawing on a global and comparative ethnography, this presentation explores how Syrian men and women seeking refuge in a moment of unprecedented global displacement are received by countries of resettlement and asylum—the U.S., Canada, and Germany. It shows that human capital, typically examined as the skills immigrants bring with them that shape their potential, is actually created, transformed, or destroyed by receiving states’ incorporation policies. Since these policies derive from historically informed and unequal approaches to social welfare, refugees’ experiences raise a mirror to how states (re)produce inequality.


Heba Gowayed is the Moorman-Simon Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boston University. Her research, which is global and comparative, examines how low-income people traverse social services, immigration laws, and their associated bureaucracies, while grappling with gender and racial inequalities. Her book, Refuge, forthcoming with Princeton University Press in 2022, explores how states shape the potential of people pursuing refuge within their borders.