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College of Social Work

Faculty and Staff

Breanne Grace, Ph.D.

Title: Associate Professor
College of Social Work
Phone: 803-777-9911
Office: Hamilton 127
Resources: Curriculum Vitae
Breanne Grace

Research Expertise

  • International migration

  • Humanitarian aid

  • International development

  • Refugee rights


Prior to beginning her Ph.D. studies in sociology, Associate Professor Breanne Grace worked in the humanitarian aid sector in refugee camps in East Africa and with East African refugee communities in the U.S. She witnessed how refugees' experiences of humanitarian aid programs, policies, and spaces were often drastically different than their portrayal in Non-Governmental Organization reports, to donor governments, or how they were discussed by stakeholders. Grace would sit in meetings and discuss humanitarian aid policies and examine monitoring and evaluation data that never quite answered her most pressing questions. As she listened to NGOs describe how they wanted their programs to be experienced, especially durable solutions, Grace noticed that refugees often navigated and engaged these spaces in very different ways with different expectations and ideas of rights. These observations continue to inform her work.

Grace uses an intersectional approach to compare refugees' experience of social and legal citizenship rights in durable solutions with how governments, NGOs, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees conceptualize rights in program design and measure rights in evaluation. She is especially interested in the ways refugees draw upon formal and informal institutions and transnational networks to access health care and social rights.

Grace’s primary research project is a longitudinal ethnography of the first intra-African refugee resettlement in Tanzania, which she started in 2006. Drawing upon more than 1,300 interviews and over 65 months of participant observation, Grace shows how a refugee resettlement program based on autochthonous design ultimately became entangled with the Global War on Terror and xenophobic fears of Somali refugees in East Africa. Her book manuscript engages this large ethnographic data set to consider how humanitarianism and anti-terrorism programs shape transnational refugee experiences of health and well-being.

Grace also has several smaller projects based in the U.S., including research that focuses on unaccompanied or separated children access asylum; refugee resettlement labor market policies and gendered labor in the formation of transnational communities after refugee resettlement; and recent state-level anti-refugee movements in the U.S.

She is in the early stages of a new project on how refugee experiences of torture and state violence shape refugees' understanding of states and rights in resettlement, and how health care and legal claims intersect in torture affidavits and resettlement experiences. She asks: ‘When refugees have been tortured by a state, how do they engage a new state in the resettlement process?’ Or more simply: ‘How does torture travel?’

Grace’s work has been funded by the U.S. State Department, Fulbright, Fulbright-Hays, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Sisters of Charity Foundation, and internal sources. She earned a 2019 Breakthrough Scholar Award for her research.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.