Emily Mitchell-Eaton is a visiting professor of human geography at Bennington College in Vermont. Her work investigates the relationship between empire and migration: how the geographic scale of U.S. Empire shapes people’s movement in diasporas, and how the territorial politics of U.S. Empire shape immigrants’ legal status. Her book manuscript, tentatively titled “New Destinations of Empire,” examines the transformation of a small Arkansan town following Marshall Islander immigration. Another project studies the geographies of grief, death, and care in diaspora. She has published in Political Geography; Gender, Place, and Culture (forthcoming); International Migration Review; H-Net: Migration; and Shima.


When Trauma Follows: Toward a critical feminist methodology of migration, trauma, and empire

This paper examines the methodological, theoretical, and ethical challenges of studying migrant trauma. Disrupting common assumptions that the West offers migrants reprieve from trauma, we consider how migrants’ trauma is often compounded upon arrival to new destinations. The movement of migrants and trauma within empires further disrupts binary logics of ‘safe’ receiving states and ‘threatening’ sending states, posing a compelling challenge to migration studies. Yet researching migrants’ trauma through ethnographic fieldwork risks compounding it, reinforcing the extractive and colonial tendencies of research. To explore the possibilities for more decolonial migration research, we draw on fieldwork in Australia and the U.S., where we have studied migrant trauma resulting from nuclear testing and indefinite detention. We take up Tuck & Yang’s (2014) call for a politics of refusal, reflecting on how refusal can inform decisions over how—or whether—to study trauma, and what kinds of research might emerge as a result.

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