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Migrant Voices at UR 

Facilitators: Kasongo Kapanga and Lidia Radi  

After completing three successful years of our FLC on Migration, we are applying to renew our FLC in order to pursue our research interests and work collectively toward two main goals, which we will detail in this document. For the past three years, as a group of committed scholars from different disciplines and across our schools, we gathered regularly every semester to share our research topics, to engage with the scholarly works of experts in our respective fields, to attend lectures both on campus and nationally (via zoom during this past year), and to discuss the latest national and international events as they pertained to migration. We have developed over the years a very engaging team of colleagues who have generously contributed to creating a rewarding collaborative atmosphere. The insightful conversations and the regularity of our meetings have contributed to most of us publishing steadily in our own fields. Not only, but over the years, we have engaged the entire campus with activities that either stemmed or were related to our FLC. We have hosted very well-attended conferences with international scholars, writers, directors over the years, and next year will be no exception.  

We would like to continue gathering this vibrant Faculty Learning Community whose research, teaching or service addresses migration, political asylum, nationhood, issues of identity and humanitarian aid from different disciplines from across at least three schools. We will continue to investigate the multifaceted issues related to migration and political asylum both in the national and international contexts. These questions have become more acute and urgent as the pandemic has created additional walls and “justified” isolation between continents, countries, cities and even communities. The pandemic has revealed an interesting gap between the need for the migrant force work and the discourses of exclusion that have been dominant in the political arena for the past several years. On the one hand, the Covid-19 emergency has uncovered the many ways in which migrants have been at the forefront of the war against the invisible enemy, as the media has often described it. Newspapers have often been populated by headlines that have told the many heroic stories of migrant health and front-line workers around the world. On the other hand, many sensational articles and news casts have used the pandemic-driven closing of the borders to justify a more permanent isolation. They stoke on their impressionable audiences the fear of “migrant invasions” at the borders as being bearers, even sources of the virus. This political move undermines what should be our collective effort and goal to transcend barriers in order to fight the virus indiscriminately at the global level. Moreover, and most importantly, this global fight should rather highlight the importance of undertaking common actions that lead us to more comprehensive solutions that benefit all humankind. As Achille Mbembe reminds us with his notion of planetarism as it pertains to migration, frontiers and borders become a political tool to keep the out-of-place status quo. 

In the next academic year, we plan to undertake two major activities for our FLC. We will host a series of exhibits on the theme “Migrant Voices of UR”. This exhibit was inspired partially by an art exhibit that came to our campus this Spring at the invitation of OIE, and that displayed artistic images and a narrative of migrant people around the city of Richmond. It is still on display at the International Center. We plan to create a series of exhibits or other events that would showcase the numerous contributions that migrants and transnational faculty, staff and students bring to our campus. More specifically, we are thinking of having events that will include roundtables, seminars, lectures, digital art exhibits that will display the multifaceted and numerous contributions that faculty, staff and students of transnational origin give on a daily basis to our campus. We will provide context, and engage our audiences with the complexities of displacement, and the importance that a wide range of views and experiences can bring forth to a community.  

         While these events will be the visible part of our FLC, we will also continue our work on writing a proposal for a co-edited volume around the idea of Borders that we have already discussed among us. Some of the questions we will explore have to do with the following inquiries: How are borders conceived and perceived? How are they formed? Are they really necessary? How would a borderless world look like? Can we reimagine borders? How do we define the less tangible borders, i.e. those made of space, language and culture? Our tentative titles are: Contested BordersReimagined BordersBorders of Space, Language, Culture. 

The group of colleagues who have committed to be part of next year’s FLC cohort is composed of twelve colleagues from three different schools, eight departments, and a variety of disciplines. We hope to receive the necessary funding that would allow us a formal space and school recognition to continue tackling these issues through multiple scholarly perspectives and intellectual debates.