What is it about?

Using the metaphor of a pumpkin that floats on the water, following its currents, but retaining own integrity, we emphasize that it may actually be the impact of adversity that awakens certain qualities and skills in people. Processes analogous to post-traumatic growth may be in effect in increasing the potential of the individual to develop a silent and potential form of understanding the world around oneself, a sort of ‘personal wisdom’. Hence, a positive psychology approach to studying the personal effects of forced migration is advocated.

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Why is it important?

It offers a reflection of contextual factors in shaping the world of migrants and their potential to cope and adapt, and the role of donor agencies in imposing ‘learned dependency’. It shows that the approach to providing humanitarian aid to migrants and refugees is often not in line with what that is supposed to achieve, nor are the ways the effects of such activities are often measured.


This paper draws from the findings gathered by the authors over several years of field research with more than 2000 returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, mostly in areas with high return rates, including social housing beneficiaries. We have basically used the opportunity of writing this paper to share our insights, which we often could not state in various technical reports or commissioned studies, since they could be considered not conducive to the grant-makers' policies.

Bojan Šošić
Board for Neurological and Psychiatric Research, Department of Medical Sciences, Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The Floating Pumpkin Syndrome: Forced Migration, Humanitarian Aid, and the Culture of Learned Helplessness, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, January 2019, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/19448953.2018.1532685.
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