À bientôt

It is the closing of the semester, and a bitter sweet feeling, Alex and I have sprinkled the finishing touches onto our website, “Moment in Migration, Congolese Community in Kirksville, MO.” Over the winter break, we will be giving ourselves a much-needed reprieve from school.

However, COPLAC Cultural Crossroads class has been such a worthwhile endeavor, that we will say <<À bientôt>>, or “see you soon” instead of <<Au dieu>>, or a permanent goodbye. Alex and I would like to continue building our website as a community tool next semester. We plan on collecting more interviews, both in English and in French. Something that we have learned from this process is that building something amazing is a community effort. In the future, we also hope to involve one of the French translation classes in building a French version of our website in order to increase its audience range.

We look forward to improving and updating our website next semester. Until then, see you soon.


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The diversity visa lottery in the News

Following the recent terrorist attack in New York, the diversity visa lottery is now flooding the news. As Jordan’s article in the New York Times states, “the lottery offers one of the fastest paths to legal permanent residence, often in less than two years,” and “some one million people have been awarded green cards through the program.”

As many politicians call for the diversity visa lottery to be shut down, thousands of others are hoping to play the lottery as a ticket to the United States. It is by no means a handout, as players must have at least a high school degree to enter the lottery; pass interviews, background checks, and medical exams; and finally, they must pay for visas and plane tickets. Within the context of the DR Congo, this is a feat in and of itself, as the country was ranked 176 of 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index of 2015.

In my study last year, one participant stated, “The lottery is a position taken by the American government so that people, strangers, come to live in America with the possibility of one day becoming an American. This doesn’t exist in the Congo… So I believe that the American society is more open to diversity, to the world, than us others, our societies’ [translated],” (13) as opposed to an overwhelming negativity about their own country in saying “There’s corruption everywhere, even in medicine” (11).

These binary results; an admiration with the United States and a disappointment in their native country; show an overwhelming thankfulness to be in the United States. For example, one said, “When one wins the lottery, one doesn’t hesitate. Because this is an unparalleled occasion so that our children can have a good education and be well-settled. It’s not really for us that we’ve come here, it’s to have a better future for our children,” [translated].

In contrast to the backlash seen in the popular media, this case study demonstrates an extreme loyalty to the United States in the cases of many diversity lottery winners.


Donald Trump, Twitter post, November 2, 2017, accessed November 7, 2017, https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2017%2F11%2F01%2Fus%2Fdiversity-visa-lottery.html.

Jordan, Miriam. “Diversity Visa Lottery: Inside the Program That Admitted a Terrorist.” New York Times, November 1, 2017. Access November 7, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/us/diversity-visa-lottery.html?_r=0.

United Nations Development Programme. “Human Development Reports.” 2016. Accessed November 7, 2017. http://hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/COD.


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Linguistic Environment

Attribution to Raymond Sangabau, English Professor at the University of Kinshasa. Provided by Dr. Sally Cook via email correspondence 12/12/16.

During my last Linguistics Practicum class period, we discussed the factors both helping and working against the Congolese in their quest to learn English, an absolute necessity for anyone who would like to be employed outside of minimum-wage, manual jobs.

In regards to their educational background, it appears that the majority of the population highly values education, as one of the Diversity Visa lottery’s requirements for the applicant is having a high school diploma. Many of immigrants practiced as doctors and professors in the DR Congo. However, some problems arise when the applicant’s family, such as their spouse or children, are not literate.

Linguistically, it is helpful that these immigrants are already polyglots. In the DR Congo, French is the official language. There are also several national languages, such as Lingala, Swahili, Tshiluba, and Kikongo. It is also helpful that these languages all share the roman alphabet with English. Finally, there are more than 200 local or tribal languages spoken, such as Mongo and Lunda. However, it is difficult for adults and teenagers to pick up on a new language because they have passed their critical period in brain development. Coming from backgrounds with limited English exposure, the instantaneous immersion can be overwhelming.

Finally, I would be hard-pressed to find a group who is more economically or socially motivated to learn English. There are several opportunities to learn English, from a wide berth of education students at Truman State to the public Vocational school in town. However, Truman students are not professional English teachers, and there is no standardized orientation or training about American culture or laws upon their departure or arrival. Moreover, opportunities to learn English are limited because new immigrants often work over-time, perhaps 60-70 hours a week at the aforementioned gruelling, labor-intensive jobs.

In short, there are a number of variables that both help and hinder the Congolese English acquisition. As discussed last week, language can be used as a measure of acculturation, making their socio-linguistic status a vital measurement for the forthcoming research.

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Learning new things about acculturation

The following was taken from the literature review I wrote in the fall of 2016:

“The definition of acculturation is contested (Faragallah et al. 2007), but according to one of the first studies of acculturation by Redfield, Linton, and Herskovits (1936), acculturation is the culture change which results from continuous, first hand contact between two distinct cultural groups. Acculturation can be measured through changes in lifestyle dimensions, such as language, daily habits, living arrangements, ethnic norms, social relationships, political affiliation, and religious affiliations (Lam 1995). Language is critical, as acculturation is often measured through language proficiency and/or brokering, e.g., translating and interpreting (Lazarevic et al 2014; Suárez-Orozco and Suárez-Orozco 2001, 2008).

It is important to measure acculturation because according to Hall (2007), those with higher levels of acculturation saw additional economic gains. Conversely, negative consequences may occur from acculturative stress, or the reduction in the health status by individuals undergoing acculturation (Berry et al. 1987).  People who were forced to flee from their homes, or refugees, have a higher mean level of acculturative stress in comparison to voluntary immigrants (Berry et al. 1987). Having communities of one’s own ethnic background may help to shorten the adjustment period, provide protection against hostility and rejection, and maintain cultural traditions (Nann 1983).

According to Berry (1990, 2003), individuals adopt different acculturation strategies, which include the following: the separate strategy, in which the individual maintains strong positive ties with the culture of origin and does not associate with the new culture; assimilation, in which the individual rejects the culture of origin and embraces the new culture; marginalization, in which the individual does not relate to either the culture of origin or the new culture; and integration, in which the individual relates well to both the culture of origin and the new culture. By defining which acculturation strategy(ies) the Congolese community has embraced, the original community can better meet their needs and work towards their integration into the community, in order to prevent secondary migration (Weine et al. 2011).”


Throughout this research project, it’s important to continue adding sources and to continue learning about other definitions of things that we are exploring. In my Human Macroecology class, I stumbled across a piece of writing that again changed my view of acculturation in anthropologist Steward’s “Theory of culture change; the methodology of multilinear evolution” (1972). He posits that the taxonomy traditionally used in anthropology and ethnology (when studying tribal culture) should and cannot be used to study nation states (51). In other words, instead of classifying only very specialized traits of the entire culture, Stewart transits that in the assimilation of any ethnic minority, first certain traits have been adopted from a particular subcultural group with which the minority had contact with first, followed by specific national traits (46).

This is helpful in understanding our research subjects’ positions. In the past, to measure acculturation, I had tried to measure national variables, like the subject’s political affiliation or feelings towards the United States. But national variables are simply too vast for any one individual to contain. Therefore, in measuring the acculturation of someone in their 20s, perhaps we should measure how closely they are integrating into their corresponding group, like a group of college students. In measuring the acculturation of an adult, perhaps a better measure of their acculturation would be their children’s involvement in school activities or their number of non-Congolese friends. 


Berry, John W., Uichol Kim, Thomas Minde, and Doris Mok. 1987. “Comparative Studies of Acculturative Stress.” The International Migration Review 21(3):491-511.

Hall, Matthew. 2013. “Moving On and Moving Up: Interstate Migration in the Process of Immigrant Assimilation.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, New York, NY.

Faragallah, Mona H., Walter R. Schumm, and Farrell J. Webb. 1997. “Acculturation of Arab-American Immigrants: an Exploratory Study.” Family Studies 28(3):182-203.

Lam, Tony. 1995. “A Review of Conceptualization and Measurement of Acculturation.” Multicultural Education 2:129-43.

Lazarevic, Vanja, Marcela Raffaelli, and Angela Wiley. 2014. “Language and Non-linguistic Brokering: Diversity of Experiences of Immigrant Young Adults from Eastern Europe.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 45(4): 517-535.

Nann, Richard C. 1983. Uprooting and Surviving: Adaptation and Resettlement of Migrant Families and Children. Holland: D Reidel Publishing Company.

Redfield, Robert, Ralph Linton, and Melville J. Herskovits. 1936. “Memorandum for the Study of Acculturation.” American Anthropologist 38(1):149-52.

Steward, Julian Haynes. 1972. Theory of culture change; the methodology of multilinear evolution. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 

Suárez-Orozco, C. and M. Suárez-Orozco. 2001. Children of Immigration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Suárez-Orozco, C., M. Suárez-Orozco and T. Todorova. 2008. Learning a New Land: Immigrant Children in American Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Weine, Stevan Merrill, Yael Hoffman, Norma Ware, Toni Tugenberg, Leonce Hakizimana, Gonwo Dahnweigh, Madeleine Currie, and Maureen Wagner. 2011. “Secondary Migration and Relocation Among African Refugee Families in the United States.” Family Process 50(1):27-46.


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Project Progress Update – slow but steady wins the race

Wow, what a world of bureaucracy to navigate in academia. Alex & I had submitted and gained approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Truman on October 5. The next day, we decided to change our methodology in order to complement COPLAC’s vision of outward-facing research. So instead of confidentially collecting data, we decided to instead ask for participants’ consent in order to film and publish these interviews online.

The IRB authorities said that we would need to submit a new application.

I understand that the IRB is used to protect everyone; the research participants, the researchers, and the university. However, I don’t understand the reasoning behind so much paperwork to film and publish interviews of people. News stations and outlets like National Public Radio publish oral histories all the time. I’m sure that they obtain written consent from the participants, like Alex & I will do, but collecting oral histories would be so much easier if it were possible to sidestep the IRB process.

Our next deadline is October 20, and the reviewers will meet on October 26. Therefore, we will have to start collecting oral histories later than we would have liked.

In terms of website progression, I am still learning a lot about WordPress. Right now, the foremost challenge is somehow being able to expand the size of the videos our TimelineJS post so that website visitors may view the videos without having to leave the page. There is a currently an option to click on the videos, which allows viewers to watch the videos at a reasonable size on Youtube. However, this leads them to another page. I would prefer that our blog visitors stay on our blog page and get the most out of it rather than getting lost in the sea of endless possibilities that is the internet.

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A History of Despotic Rulers in the DRC

Joseph Kabila, the DRC’s current “president” of 16 years

In continuing our mission of learning more about the DRC, I simply googled “The Democratic Republic of Congo.” The first few news stories were appalling. And unlike the time lapse between King Leopold of Belgium’s Reign of Terror and public knowledge in the early 1900s, we as a society have real-time access to the news of these atrocities, and are doing nothing.

BBC’s article “Living with violence in the DR Congo,” chronicles the sheer suffering of Congolese in the Kasai region (September 24, 2017). It is estimated that within the past year, more than 1 million people have been displaced. Families have been torn apart, children orphaned, and villages burnt to the ground. All of this while Kabila proffers to “affirm that we are most certainly moving towards credible, transparent and peaceful elections,” (News 24, 2017). To understand how this despotic ruler, Kabila, could possibly still in power, I researched how he had originally come to power. One blog post is not nearly enough to even summarize the DRC’s tumultuous history, but I try to cover some key points through using Bobb and Kisangani’s The Historical Dictionary (2010) to familiarize myself with key terms and events.

Firstly, it’s important to realize that the DRC has never peacefully transitioned into democracy. Before the Kabila father-son duo took power, possibly the most despotic military ruler of all time, Mobutu Sese Seko, had ruled the DRC since his first coup d’état at the beginning of the ‘Congo crisis’, or the messy, fast process of decolonization from Belgium began in 1960. Mobutu used the economic policies of nationalization and radicalization, or the process of seizing colonial enterprises to fund state governance and enrich his personal pocket. By the 1980s, the mineral rich country had neglected its structural capacity to deliver on the rapid industrial development promised at independence.

Despite Mobutu’s clear corruption and suppression of human rights, the U.S. and other Western allies supported Mobutu until the end of the Cold War, when the U.S.’s Containment Policy was no longer necessary. In 1990, Mobutu convinced the international community that he would move the country towards democracy through superficial reforms. For example, in the “third coup of his career,” he snatched back power from “the people’s candidate,” Prime Minister Tshisekedi in 1993. But without funds from the U.S. and its allies, Mobutu was susceptible to the rebellion led by the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo (AFDL), led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, which was funded by the Congo’s neighboring countries and overtook Kinshasa in 1997, forcing Mobutu to finally flee the country.

Kabila the Second came into power after his father was assassinated in 2001, during the Second Congo War, otherwise known as ‘Africa’s First World War’, which lasted from 1998 to 2003 (Bobb and Kisangani 2010, p. 463). Like the situation today, more than 2 million Congolese were internally displaced. Furthermore, approximately 5 million people had been killed as a result of the war and its related consequences.

But, my dear international community, do we care?


Bobb, Scott F., and Emizet François Kisangani. Historical Dictionary of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Plymouth, UK: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2010.

Living with violence in the DR Congo. (2017, September 25). Retrieved September 24, 2017, from http://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-41346859.

Kabila at UN pledges DRC elections but still no date. (2017, September 23). Retrieved September 24, 2017, from http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/kabila-at-un-pledges-drc-elections-but-still-no-date-20170923.


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This project will further the explanatory project embarked by Wilcox in 2016 in a team effort of Wilcox, a Sociology student, and Vietor, an Anthropology student, in an online, long-distance learning graduate level research course (SOAN 523). This will use ethnographic methods including interviews in order to gain insight on the immigration of Congolese in Northeast Missouri. The focus of the research is to continue the documentation of the experiences of this group, including, but not limited to: what factors influenced them to leave their native country and migrate to the United States specifically, what the process of applying for migrant or refugee status included, and their challenges and successes of adjusting to life in the Kirksville community, and this time, its effects on the Kirksville community.

To collect this qualitative data, we will again use the non-probability methods of quota and snowball sampling in order to interview at least 6 Congolese people over the age of 18. We hope to have an even sampling of single and married adults of both genders, as the only available subjects in the previous research were primarily single males. To collect data, we will use a tape recorder if the interviewee gives us permission to do so. Key variables will include the respondents’ background information, their acculturative stress and assimilation experiences, and comparisons of change overtime. Additional areas of inquiry may emerge through the interview process.

These interviews will be supplemented with outside sources such as newspapers and scholarly journals to give more situational context to the geopolitical situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These findings will be documented through individual and a joint WordPress blogs which will culminate as our final open-access research project for the Cultural-Crossroads Digital Learning Class (SOAN 523). This will allow the public to access the research as well. Please see the following links for examples of our progress thus far.

Course blog: http://xroads.coplacdigital.org/course/

Vietor’s individual blog: http://xroads.coplacdigital.org/vietor/

Wilcox’s individual blog: http://xroads.coplacdigital.org/wilcox/

Shared blog: http://xroads.coplacdigital.org/truman/



Internal Due Dates Official Due Dates
October 3 – complete a first Timeline JS and a StoryMap JS about immigration moment
October 5 – final learning agreement due
October 31 – rough draft of website due
November 16 – finish all interviews November 28 & 30 – final presentations
December 11 – final project websites & write-ups due
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How statistics can reveal insights about the individuals’ stories

The “Congolese Refugee Health Profile,” published by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in 2014, details the migratory movements of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), both within the United States and among the DRC’s neighbors. In essence, it shows that the outpouring of asylum-seekers from the DRC is not likely to stop in the near future.

A summary of germane statistics follows. According to this profile, from 2013 to 2014, the UNHCR reported more than 400,000 Congolese nationals seeking refuge outside of the DRC, primarily in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi. Many Congolese refugees who are admitted to the United States come from as many as 36 African countries. The greatest number of Congolese refugees came from Tanzania (1,742). From 2008 to 2013, approximately 11,000 of the 400,000 Congolese seeking shelter came to the United States, averaging an approximate caseload of a mere 2,000 refugees a year, and the top resettlement states were Texas, Arizona, and New York (Figure 4). I was surprised that Missouri wasn’t included in one of the top ten states. However, the influx of Congolese into Kirksville is so recent that it perhaps wasn’t included in the data, which extends only to 2013. Furthermore, it did not take into account internal migration. The website was useful in that it cited sources from the UNHCR and the Office of Refugee Settlement, resources that we should include in our annotated bibliography.

Although these statistics detail Congolese refugees and not Diversity-lottery immigrants like the population in Kirksville, they are pertinent to our research topic in understanding the geopolitical forces that are driving this wave of emigration from the DRC, no matter the means by which Congolese emigrate. The DRC has had a tumultuous and genocidal history since colonization, and the political and economic situation is not likely to improve as President Kabila refuses to give up power after his third presidential term. Despite the country’s richness in minerals and natural resources, according to a report by Aljazeera, approximately 7.7 million people are on the verge of starvation in the DRC, as revolts and violence have prevented farmers from planting crops (2017).

As we approach the Congolese population, it will be important to remain up-to-date in the news, the little that exists on English websites, on the tenuous geopolitical situation in the DRC. Researching as much as possible about their experience will be vital in understanding a worldview and experiences that are unfamiliar to us.

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