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Migration, Nation and Identity


  • Kasongo Kapanga
  • Lidia Radi

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 will continue to investigate the multifaceted problem of migration and political asylum in the context of International law, political science, the humanities, arts, business, ethics and environmental studies.

In addition to basing our reflections on Hannah Arendt’s seminal work The Origins of Totalitarianism and on Anthony Kwame Appiah’s Cosmopolitism, we will restart our conversation by ruminating on the last articles we discussed (Diaz-Barriga & Dorsey and Mbembe). The thrust of our debates will revolve around the same questions as last year. 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 ? We will examine some of these questions against the background of colleagues’ work and research. Given time constraints, talks could be grouped according to affinities or thematic similarities.

These are only a sample of the questions that this FLC proposes to address. We will continue  to engage in a broader campus and city-wide conversations that will lead to collaborative scholarly and teaching projects.

Another very important goal of this FLC is to transform our theoretical conversations in community partnerships that aim to bring awareness about migrant and refugee issues and more concretely helps migrant communities in our local context. This FLC intends to make room for studies on recent immigrant communities in RVA in public life and space.

In the context of our University’s current strategic plan, whose goal is to become leader in preparing students who can “contribute to and succeed in a complex world; producing knowledge to address the world’s problems,” we couldn’t think of a more important topic to discuss collectively than “migration, nation and identity.”