Documenting the Undocumented Narratives of Dreamers: Personal Uncertainty, Interrupted Identities, and Religious Meaning Making Restricted; Files Only

Cho, Eunil (Spring 2020)

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This dissertation aims to propose new pastoral theological strategies and practices of care for/with various individuals and communities of faith in the US affected by global migration. By exploring the untold stories of Christian DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients or “Dreamers,” this study intends to understand how these young adults use their religion as an important resource to make sense of their experience of undocumented immigration and develop their sense of identity by interpreting and telling their stories. To achieve the aim, this dissertation has three primary tasks.

The first task is to describe and interpret the stories of undocumented Korean American young adults with DACA status who identify themselves as Christians by inviting them to tell their stories. Based on in-depth interviews with ten participants guided by narrative inquiry research method, the study narrates how the Dreamers came to the US and became “undocumented.” The description provides insights with which to interpret how they understand what it means to grow up as undocumented adolescents and young adults.

The second task engages thematic analysis of the stories of the Dreamers, namely how their experiences of undocumented immigration have created a constant sense of uncertainty. In their development of narrative identity, the aversive experience of uncertainty creates incoherence in their stories. Such dissonance may lead these undocumented young adults to experience narrative foreclosure, which suggests they gain a premature conviction that their life story has effectively ended.

Finally, the final task focuses on the religious stories that the Dreamers tell and examines how they tell these stories as pastoral conversation in the face of uncertainty. By telling their religious stories of God, Christian faith, and the members of their church community, they cope with the uncertainty and also new meanings. Furthermore, for Christian Dreamers, telling religious stories enables their stories and the stories of God to be synthesized in the form of prayer. Furthermore, prayer as a pastoral practice generates and fosters a religious identity, which empowers individuals of faith to continue imagining, creating, and narrating their stories in the time of uncertainty.

Table of Contents


The Purpose of Study

Chapter 1: Documenting the Undocumented Stories as Pastoral Theological Work

Chapter 2: We Are Our Stories: Narrative Identity Formation and Development

Chapter 3: Describing and Interpreting the Undocumented Stories of Korean American Dreamers

Chapter 4: Narrative Identity Processing of Uncertainty in the Stories of Dreamers

Chapter 5: Telling Religious Stories as Pastoral Conversation in the Face of Uncertainty




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  • English
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