Picturing the New Americans

Minneapolis, Minnesota, is home to roughly 30,000 people of Somali origin. Many of them are refugees, having fled famine and decades of war—a situation not dissimilar to that of today’s Syrian refugees. For the past year, photographer Arthur Nazaryan documented this enclave of new Americans to show that Somalis, and migrants in general, could be more than "perpetrators or victims of conflict."

The Somalis who live in Minneapolis are much like regular Minnesotans —barbecuing, riding speedboats, going to the playground, and hosting dinner parties. According to Nazaryan, they are also avid Snapchatters, posting selfies of their every move.  “I was kind of surprised, given how conservative the culture can be, to see the younger generation going out, dating, and using social media,” Nazaryan said.  “In Somali culture, it’s really important to be connected and communicate with each other.”

But earlier this year, the community garnered headlines after a handful of Somali-American men were accused of planning to join ISIS. Three have plead guilty, despite intense efforts from local leaders to counter extremism.

"People only pay attention to them when there are these anomalous cases," Nazaryan said."I think it is worth looking at how this community lives, because they’ve also come as refugees from a country that continues to be torn apart by Islamic extremism — and have been both benefactors of our generosity and victims of our suspicion."

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