Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Dr. Dillon Mahoney, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roberta Baer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Himmelgreen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sibel Kusimba, Ph.D.


Applied Anthropology, Cultural Food Security, Gender, Labor, Mobility, US Refugee Resettlement


In the United States, resettled African refugee populations experience food insecurity at rates up to seven times higher than those of the general population. In Tampa, Florida, anthropologists have documented high levels of food insecurity among Central African refugee households since members of this population began to be resettled in the area in 2016. Utilizing an intersectional lens and drawing upon theoretical concepts such as cultural food security, navigational capital, and social reproduction, this thesis examines how Central African refugees, particularly women, experience food (in)security and other overlapping forms of (in)security as they integrate into US systems of structural inequality amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and following major admission and funding changes to the US refugee resettlement and integration system. Data were collected in two phases (n=18 households; n=6 women) using ethnographic methods such as interviews, participant observation, and go-alongs. Findings indicate that Central African refugee households’ cultural food security has been negatively impacted by disruptions in supply chains of traditional foods caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the informalization of local refugee resettlement and integration services. Much attention is paid to how the passing of risk and responsibility from refugee service providers (RSPs) to Central African refugee households and their informal social networks creates and exacerbates gendered and intersectional precarity and vulnerability. Specifically, this thesis examines gendered differences in mobility, paid labor, and social reproduction. It also discusses how individuals and households use navigational capital to negotiate structural inequalities as they attempt to build prosperous and successful lives in the United States. This project provides seven recommendations for improving the capacity of the local refugee resettlement system to better meet the needs of the Central African refugee community.