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Migration, Nation and Identity


  • Kasongo Kapanga
  • Lidia Radi

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the historical event that changed dramatically the political, social and cultural face of Europe. Thousands of people from Eastern communist countries crossed into Western Europe by land and sea, transforming and reshaping the countries that offered them asylum or refuge. In more recent years, political instability in some Middle-Eastern and sub-Saharan countries has increased the influx of migrants and refugees in the closest ports of entry, i.e. Greece, Italy, and Turkey, raising numerous questions about how the resettlement of these populations across Europe should be managed, if at all.  The humanitarian crisis provoked by this influx has not only prompted empathetic reactions, but has also opened the way to aggressive political discourses that call for a closure of the borders, economic protectionism and the affirmation of nationalistic identity.

This FLC proposes to gather colleagues from across all schools whose research or teaching addresses migration, political asylum, nationhood, issues of identity and humanitarian aid from different perspectives and disciplines. We intend to investigate the multifaceted problem of migration and political asylum in the context of International law, political science, the humanities, arts, business, ethics, environmental studies.

In the footsteps of Hannah Arendt’s seminal work The Origins of Totalitarianism and in light of Anthony Kwame’s Cosmopolitism, we will start our conversation by discussing the “rootlessness” that is at the heart of the refugee or migrant experience. How can an uprooted individual demand any rights, even basic human rights, in a land that isn’t his/her home? How would those caught in between, such as the generation born in “exile”, define themselves? How is citizenship defined? What weight does International law have in matters of migration and political asylum? What does it mean to be a “climate refugee”, and how will this affect our perspective on migration?  How do migrant writers or artists depict their struggles in their newfound home? What do they teach us about human resiliency, courage, altruistic behavior? In which ways do migrants contribute to the economic, social and cultural lives of the countries that adopt them? How can the various local constituencies participate in this debate?