The Ongoingness of Migration: Marshallese Well-Being in the United States

  • 2022•12•07

    Brittany L. Wheeler, Juno Fitzpatrick, and Kees van der Geest

    Marshallese mobility long precedes the deep disruptions of nuclear history, contemporary climate induced migration debates, and the ongoing socioeconomic, legal, and geopolitical discourses about the freely associated relationship between the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and the United States (U.S.). Nonetheless, understanding the well-being of the Marshallese people today requires an acknowledgment of the multiple factors that have drawn at least one-third of the RMI’s citizens to live in the U.S. over the last half century, as well as a firm grasp of how they live, work, and advocate for their communities in this diaspora. This article makes the argument that migration with dignity will always require attention to the ongoingness of history, migration, and lives. Beyond this, we argue that ongoingness is more than a vague, conceptual notion we might use to describe – or even dismiss – complex histories and present-day uncertainty about addressing migration-related issues. Rather, we present a series of qualitative studies, conducted over more than five years, to indicate how the ongoingness of migration can be made tangible for studying, understanding, and potentially expanding migration – and life – with dignity. This paper discusses three aspects of ongoingness that impact the well-being of the Marshallese who live in the U.S.: their ongoing relationship with their home environment, their ongoing relationship with the law, and their ongoing relationship with notions and practices of responsibility and repair.

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