|dc.description.abstract||This thesis demonstrates resilience and the ability to enjoy life despite hardships.
While most studies of refugees and asylum seekers focus on issues of trauma and ill-health,
this thesis attends to both positive and negative experiences that people
experience due to a forced migration. Drawing on forty interviews as well as
ethnographic observations, this thesis uses narrative and ethnographic methods to
investigate the most salient factors contributing to well-being and happiness among
African refugees and asylum seekers in two different urban environments: Newcastle-upon-
Tyne in the UK and the greater Banjul area in the Gambia. I argue that through
the stories these people told me about their lives, well-being and happiness can be
subsumed under three main themes.
The first theme of growth and meaning is one that features prominently in post-flight
narratives. I show how people make sense of their lives and turn the negative
experience of flight into something positive, meaningful and purposeful by using the
concepts of posttraumatic growth and sense of coherence. The second theme of
relational well-being is used to highlight the ambivalent role that various social
relationships – families, friends and the wider community – have on an individual’s
happiness. The third theme is temporal well-being. Specifically, I compare the two
groups to explicate how perceptions of the passage of time in the present affect well-being
and what the implications of an imagined future are for present happiness.
Finally, I show how religion links these three themes together.
This research primarily contributes to well-being and happiness studies where
anthropology is underrepresented and to migration and refugee studies where it brings
an ethnographic and narrative approach. Its interdisciplinary nature, and particularly
the emphasis on qualitative methodologies, complements research in social
psychology and sociology whose approaches to happiness and well-being tend to
emphasise quantitative methods. This emphasis on quantitative methods risks missing
the context and nuance that qualitative research adds. I argue that it is not only the
methods which make the contribution of this research valuable, but also the multi-sited
and comparative nature of it which offer unique insights in how diverse individuals
strive for well-being and a good, happy life.||en