Sophia Balakian is a sociocultural anthropologist. Prior to coming to George Mason, Balakian was an Academy Scholar at Harvard’s Academy for International and Area Studies, and taught in the African Studies program at Penn State University.
Balakian’s current research focuses on the intersections of migration and kinship, and humanitarianism and securitization both globally and as they pertain to U.S. policy. She is currently working on a book titled, “The Fraudulent Refugee: Crossing Borders & Re-making Kinship in a Security Age.” The manuscript examines the post-9/11 securitization of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, and the ways in which people from Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo who are living as refugees make sense of bureaucratic systems and security technologies that structure humanitarian programs of the early twenty-first century. The manuscript is based on long-term ethnographic research between Nairobi, Kenya and Columbus, Ohio.
Balakian’s new research project investigates the ways in which people originally from east Africa navigate U.S. policies and practices around caregiving, especially childcare. How do people re-imagine what constitutes good care in a radically new social and economic environment? How do their practices, struggles, and observations invite critiques of a society that has disinvested in the infrastructure of caring for its youngest members and supporting their guardians?
Balakian has published in the journals Anthropologica and African Studies Review, and in the edited volume, Global Perspectives on the United States.