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‘My Dad Was, Is a Soldier’: Using Collaborative Poetic Inquiry to Explore Intergenerational Trauma, Resilience, and Wellbeing in the Context of Forced Migration

Lydia Wanja Gitau, Achol Arop, Caroline Lenette

2023 Australia

The topics of intergenerational trauma, resilience, and wellbeing as they relate to forced migration are receiving more attention in the arts and health literature. Yet, we know very little about how refugee-background young adults manage their psychosocial wellbeing when they grow up surrounded by stories of conflict, loss, and trauma. Achol has been writing poetry to represent and amplify the narratives of those around her (parents, family, and the South Sudanese community in Sydney, Australia). These stories are central elements of her lived experience and the diverse experiences of her community. Using collaborative poetic inquiry, this paper identifies key themes in one of her poems, My dad was, is a soldier, to illustrate how poetry is an important artistic mode of expression that can improve our understanding of intergenerational trauma, resilience, and wellbeing. Rather than conveying interview data through research poems, we place Achol’s poem at the centre of our collaborative poetic inquiry to gain new insights into refugee lived experiences. This paper contributes to contemporary debates on how artistic means enrich our knowledge of psychosocial wellbeing through trauma-informed, culturally safe, and decolonial research methods.

intergenerational; trauma; resilience; psychosocial; wellbeing; refugees; poetry; conflict; war