The body against the tides: a pilot study of movement-based exploration for examining Burmese refugees’ resilience

Author(s): Satwika RAHAPSARI, Ellen Schelly HILL


The purpose of this paper is to to understand Burmese refugees’ resilience in the USA, as well as to explore the potential contributions of arts- or movement-based interviews (movement elicitation (ME)) to the exploration of the immigration experience.

A qualitative case study was used for this pilot study (n=3), with verbal interviews combined with a ME procedure. ME is guided expressive movement that is engaged within verbal interviews. Utilizing ME involved probing interview responses to clarify and deepen the themes related to the resilience of Burmese refugees. Further, thematic analysis was conducted to identify themes within the interviews as related to the resilience of Burmese refugees.

Eight themes emerged from analysis of verbal interviews. Four themes pertained to adversities faced during the resettlement experience: financial and employment-based problems; racial issues and discrimination; challenges in adjustment and acculturation; and rough, unsafe neighborhoods. Four themes described the elements promoting Burmese refugees’ resilience: acquiring functional skills; drawing upon personal qualities; finding a sense of identity in family and beliefs; and accepting social support.

This study describes the resilience of refugees from Burma in the USA, with additional focus on how body and movement may serve as resources for coping, and thus provides information on the development of a framework for mental health assessment and intervention during refugees’ integration in their resettlement country.

Keywords: Resilience, Refugee, Burmese, Dance/movement therapy, Movement elicitation

Tags: United States, Myanmar, Refugees, Resilience, Therapeutic interventions, Coping strategies, Resettlement

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