Natalie Eppelsheimer

Natalie Eppelsheimer, associate professor of German, joined Middlebury College in the fall of 2008 after earning her Ph.D. from the University of California in Irvine. She teaches German language courses from the introductory to the advanced level as well as courses on the Holocaust and on exiles and refugees. Moreover, she regularly facilitates professional development workshops on teaching German language and culture undergraduate courses, specifically the teaching of difficult topics such as the Holocaust and refugee experiences. Her monograph “Roads Less Traveled: German Jewish Exile Experiences in Kenya” is forthcoming with Peter Lang’s Exile Series.

Abstract: Questions of Belonging: Victims of Nazi-persecution in Colonial Kenya

This paper deals with narratives and experiences of German and Austrian refugees–most of them Jewish–in the British Colony Kenya, where victims of Nazi persecution found haven between 1933 and 1945. In particular, it explores the peculiar paradox that those who fled from Germany and Austria and settled in Kenya lived: on the one hand, they were victims of Nazi racism; on the other hand, they often found themselves in the position of colonizers, who were privileged to purchase, lease, or live on land that was off limits to non-whites in the Kenya Colony and who also had access to the native labor force. The paper examines the refugees’ position in light of colonial power-structures in Kenya and their reception by the British settler society as well as their reception by the Indian community in Kenya. It also explores refugees’ encounters with native Kenyans.

Jia Feng

Jia Feng is a geography lecturer in the History Department at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, since fall 2017. He earned his bachelor’s degree in urban planning from Nanjing University in China, an M.A. in geography from Miami University, as well as an M.S. in statistics and probability and a Ph.D. in geography from Michigan State University. He studied the issues of migration, marginality, and informality, and examined the development of migrant recycling enclaves in Beijing, China, as his dissertation project. At Washburn University, he is focusing more on the rural “left-behind” communities in rural western Kansas.

Abstract: A Parallel Society in the Making? A case study of the migrant recycling enclaves in Beijing

Since the late 1970s, China’s rural-to-urban migrants have gradually joined the urban work force, especially in the not-so-desirable jobs in the cities. In particular, about 200,000 migrant workers (about one percent of Beijing’s population) joined and dominated the recycling sector through “informal” activities. Due to various unfriendly, stigmatizing, and discriminatory policies against the migrants and their informal activities, the migrant recyclers started to form and join the many migrant recycling enclaves after the late 1990s. Various migrant-run services, facilities, and institutions also emerged around the flourishing recycling enclaves through self-organization and self-institutionalization. Based on multi-year fieldwork in Beijing, this study examines how migrants reconstruct their identities in the city. We argue that a parallel society is in the making in Beijing with an ever-shrinking boundary through repetitive demolition and relocation facing various urban redevelopment projects while the “outsider” identity has further shaken the meaning of belongings for the migrant recyclers in Beijing.

Veronica Ferreri

Veronica Ferreri is a postdoctoral fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin. She completed her Ph.D. in politics at SOAS, University of London, with a dissertation titled “A State of Permanent Loss. War and Displacement in Syria and Lebanon.” At the intersection of legal anthropology and migration studies, her work examines the predicament of war, exile, and revolution experienced by a Syrian community through the prism of loss. Her current research project “Paper Trails and Dislocated Bureaucracy” aims to revisit the concept of state archive in the midst of war by treating Syrian official documents as testimonies of a disappearing past.

Abstract: An Uncertain Return: Violence, documents, and legal death in the Syrian displacement in Lebanon

This paper examines the trajectory of displacement experienced by a Syrian community originally from Homs countryside and displaced in Lebanon. By tracing the origin of the community’s forced displacement, this paper investigates how this specific genealogy of displacement affects community’s life in Lebanon and their future return to Syria. In fact, community’s expulsion from Syria not only resulted in the illegal crossing of the Syrian-Lebanese border but also in the loss of official documents. This loss produced a distinctive (legal) predicament, legal death, that cannot be fully grasped by the community’s illegal status in Lebanon––a country that does not recognize the Geneva Refugee Convention. By drawing on a long-term ethnographic fieldwork started in 2014, this paper demonstrates how legal death ambiguously lies between citizenship and statelessness in Syria becoming symptomatic of the uncertainties, if not impossibility, of the community to return home due to its involvement in the 2011 Revolution.

Kaitlin Fertaly

Kaitlin Fertaly is a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder whose research has broadly focused on the shifting practices of everyday life in Armenia following the collapse of the Soviet Union, with a particular focus on changing gender roles. More specifically, she has examined the geopoliticization of gender in Armenia, the impacts of the financialization of social reproduction, and geopolitical entanglements of doing research abroad. Kaitlin is currently a research associate at the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities at the University of Montana Missoula where she works on applied disability studies projects.

Abstract: ‘I Can’t Stay Here Anymore’: Cruel optimism and generational practices of endurance in post-Soviet Armenia

Different generations of Armenians have experienced and responded to the nearly constant upheaval of post-Soviet Armenian society in markedly divergent ways. Young women, in particular, are optimistic for new opportunities made possible by shifting gender roles and imaginations of a good life though they acknowledge the obstacles they face in terms of accessing those opportunities. Their world has become increasingly unrecognizable as they attempt to navigate between competing visions of a “good life”—one that worked for their parents’ generation and a “modern” vision of independence and mobility. This paper explores the affective and spatial practices of young women as they endure and navigate a shifting sense of the world to address the multiple “longings and belongings” that influence young women’s decisions to stay or to migrate. It specifically addresses the role of affect in shaping how individuals think of themselves, home, and their practices of mobility or enduring in place.

Jennifer Hyndman

Jennifer Hyndman is director of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University in Toronto, where she is also a professor of geography. Her research focuses on the geopolitics of forced migration, the biopolitics of refugee camps, humanitarian responses to displacement, and refugee resettlement in North America. Her most recent book is Refugees in Extended Exile: Living on the Edge, with Wenona Giles (Routledge, 2017). Hyndman is author of Dual Disasters: Humanitarian Aid after the 2004 Tsunami (2011), Managing Displacement: Refugees and the Politics of Humanitarianism (2000), and co-editor with W. Giles of Sites of Violence: Gender and Conflict Zones (2004).

Abstract: Re-imagining Migration in the Wake of ‘Crisis,’ Global Compacts, and Exclusion

During the Cold War, refugees enjoyed relative mobility and were valued as proof of ideological superiority. Containment of Communism prevailed. After the Cold War, containment refers to the 85 percent or more of refugees residing in the Global South. Refugee mobility and currency in global geopolitics has declined precipitously. Current state-centric approaches to global displacement (UNHCR 2018), such as the new global compacts on refugees and migrants this year, are not new and do not change the containment paradigm. How can we re-imagine migration and what space can be made that works for people who seek a secure home?  Drawing on the manifesto at and the Kolkata Declaration, this intervention calls for critical attention to the epistemological violence that categories create, especially between (worthy) refugees and (unworthy) migrants; the scaling down of grand state-centric narratives of governments to the narratives and ontologies of the refugee-migrant-asylum seekers to understand the decisions people make to leave; and a rethinking of security and protection that is self-authorized.

Sumayya Kassamali: “Black Beirut: Migration, intimacy, exile”

Andreas Kossert

Andreas Kossert is a research fellow at the Federal Foundation Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation in Berlin since January 2010. In addition, he teaches German history in the German School at Middlebury College since 2011. After studying history, political science, and Slavonic studies in Freiburg, Edinburgh, and Bonn, he completed his doctoral thesis at the Free University of Berlin in 2000. He worked as a research fellow at the German Historical Institute in Warsaw from 2001 to the end of 2009, from 2004 also as deputy director. Specialized on Central European history, Kossert has published widely on nationalism, borderlands, ethnic and religious minorities, forced migration, displacement, and refugees. His publications include Masuren: Ostpreußens vergessener Süden, Ostpreußen. Geschichte und Mythos, and Kalte Heimat. Die Geschichte der deutschen Vertriebenen nach 1945.

Abstract: Uprootedness: Refugee narratives and the question of belonging

Homelessness was an experience for more than 14 million German refugees after 1945. Their arrival changed the shape of German society in dramatic dimensions, contributing to secularization, modernization and urbanization. But those ethnic German refugees arrived at a Cold Home, facing an unwelcoming and even hostile reception by their fellow Germans. Nonetheless, until recently, the master-narrative praised a so-called successful integration, but this only shows a very materialistic understanding. I want to use the German case, trying to provide answers to universal patterns of integration and assimilation closely linked with questions of belonging. Forced displacement questions the certainty of a protected space. Refugee worlds mean turmoil and disarray. Certainties wane. Refugee stories of forced displacement are elementary global experiences and, yet, hardly any other topic seems more controversial and polarizing. Uprootedness and belonging, a vicious circle in refugees’ lives: What means home, where is home and, finally, where do I belong?

Natalie Kouri-Towe

Natalie Kouri-Towe is an assistant professor and program director for the Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality Program at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Her work examines solidarity, kinship, and attachment in social movements and activist responses to war and gender/sexuality-based violence, with a focus on North America and the Middle East. Her new research examines the role of sexuality and kinship in responses to the “refugee crisis” and she is currently working on a book manuscript on feminist and queer solidarity under neoliberalism.

Abstract: Kinship and “the Refugee Crisis”: Interrogating the racial and sexual discourses of family in Canadian refugee sponsorship

Over the past three years, Canada’s refugee sponsorship initiative, #WelcomeRefugees, has captured public interest, particularly through stories in the media that feature the intimate relationships that develop between refugees and their sponsors. Yet, the relationship between refugees and sponsors is more complex than that of providing a resettlement service. For one, stories of refugees and sponsors highlight the intimacy and familiality of these relationships. In this paper, I investigate how kinship is deployed, contested, and shaped in the stories told about Syrian refugees and their sponsors, and interrogate the normative, hetero-patriarchal, and racial formations of the family that emerge in profiles on Canada’s sponsorship program, juxtaposing the normalization of “family” in tension with the alternative kinships emergent in the refugee-sponsor relationship.

Hilda Lloréns

Hilda Lloréns is the author of Imaging the Great Puerto Rican Family: Framing Nation, Race, and Gender during the American Century (2014). Her writings about environmental injustice and racism, migration, and ecofeminism have been published in The Conversation, Sapiens, and NACLA, among others. She teaches anthropology in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at the University of Rhode Island.

Abstract: Re-conceptualizing Puerto Rican Migration: From voluntary to economic and climate migrants

In the twenty-first century, Puerto Rican migration to the continental U.S. continues unabated, with migrants hailing from all socio-economic classes leading to the establishment of ethnic enclaves in the south and west coast. With over 5 million Puerto Ricans now living in the mainland and about 3.2 million on the island, there are growing concerns about the island’s depopulation. The scholarship about Puerto Rican migration is vast but has overwhelmingly conceptualized migration as voluntary. In this work, I seek to problematize this orthodoxy in two ways: (1) centering the notion that as “small places,” Caribbean islands, in this case Puerto Rico, have been dynamically populated and depopulated as a result of climatic and human factors since pre-colonial times; (2) due to long-term economic and environmental upheaval, PRs have long been economic and environmental migrants.

Emily Mitchell-Eaton

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.

Orhon Myadar

As a political geographer, Orhon Myadar studies the intersection of geography and politics at various scales. She is especially interested in questions of power, mobility, and displacement within the context of shifting political landscapes. She studies how borders of belonging or exclusion shift as political regimes change and how these fluid borders shape everyday struggles of underserved and marginalized individuals and communities. Her most recent research project, “Saving a piece of me,” explores the ways in which individuals who have been resettled as refugees in Tucson attempt to preserve their cultural practices while rebuilding their lives and integrating into the local community.

Abstract: Mobility and Displacement: A comparative analysis of refugees in Tucson and nomads in Mongolia

In this paper, I engage two central topics, mobility and displacement, as they inform and at times produce one another. I do so by examining three different cases to elucidate the complex and myriad ways in which mobility and displacement impact lives of peoples and communities at different spatial and temporal scales: herders in Mongolia, former “comfort women” in East Asia and refugees in Tucson. These cases demonstrate various ways in which the right to move is routinely hindered, in consequence displacing individuals and communities from their familiar territories and homelands. The cases also demonstrate how displacement functions as a both product and tool of violence.

Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong

Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong is an assistant professor of geography at the University of Denver. His research interests focus upon the human dimensions of global environmental change, and sustainable agriculture and food systems. Specifically, he is interested in socio-cultural barriers to climate adaptation, as well as improving food security with farming practices that generate minimal ecological footprints and contribute to climate change mitigation. His regional concentration is Africa, with ongoing projects in Ghana and Malawi. His publications have appeared in Global Environmental Change, Journal of Peasant Studies, Ecology and Society, Geoforum, Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, and Social Science & Medicine.

Abstract: New Insecurities: The political ecology of climate migrants, belonging, and adaptation to multiple stressors in Ghana

Climate change is transforming many semi-arid northern Ghanaian residents into climate migrants, escaping crop failure, water scarcity, and food shortages. Most of these climate migrants tend to resettle in the country’s rainforest zones, with relatively fertile soils and a bimodal rainfall. Upon relocation, however, these climate migrants face new insecurities and vulnerabilities, oftentimes much harsher than in the region where they originated. While much of the literature on this topic focuses on cross-border migration, we know very little about in-country migration due to ecological degradation. To address this research gap, this paper asks: What are the socio-ecological factors that shape new insecurities and vulnerabilities faced by climate migrants? How do climate migrants discursively construct their modes of belonging and identities in their host societies? The findings shed theoretical and empirical light on why climate migrants prefer to move even when they are deeply aware of impending insecurities in host societies.

J. Santiago Palacios Ontalva

J. Santiago Palacios Ontalva is a professor of medieval history at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. His work has focused on the ideological and material aspects of the Reconquest, the history of the Crusades, and the military orders in Spain. He has participated in several research projects and is the author of numerous articles, as well as three books, the most recent titled Crusades and Military Orders in the Middle Ages (Madrid, 2017). He currently leads, together with Carlos de Ayala, the project “Religious Violence in the Peninsular Middle Ages: War, apologetic discourse and historiographic narrative, X-XV centuries.”

Abstract: Forced Migration by War and Colonization in Medieval Spain: Between al-Andalus and the feudal world

The border between the feudal world and al-Andalus in Spain during the Middle Ages was a permeable and dynamic boundary. The progressive growth of the Christian kingdoms resulted in the domination of extensive territories occupied by the mostly Muslim Andalusi population, who faced the dilemma of staying in their homes or emigrating and undertaking a forced exile. This paper has two objectives. Firstly, to show the different situations experienced by the civilian population of al-Andalus after the feudal conquest. And secondly, to define the formulas that the Christian used to colonize the conquered space through the introduction of new populations. In short, analyzing the migratory phenomena that occurred on the border between Christians and Muslims will help us to better understand medieval Spain. A society developed between intransigence and coexistence; between the violence and the assimilation that was able to also generate an enormous intellectual, cultural and artistic richness.

Farhana Rahman

Farhana Rahman is a Cambridge International Trust Scholar and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies. Her doctoral research focuses on Rohingya refugee women’s lived experiences of conflict and forced migration. She is the co-founder of Silkpath Relief Organization, a non-profit that provides humanitarian assistance to individuals devastated by calamities–in Afghanistan, and with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and Malaysia. She also works as a consultant providing technical expertise and trainings on gender equality, social policy, and human rights. Her work can be found in various publications, including Feminist Review and Journal of International Women’s Studies.

Abstract: ‘I Had No Will to Live’: Rohingya refugee women negotiating gender, identity, and belonging

Until recently, Rohingyas from Myanmar making the perilous trek across the Andaman Sea to Malaysia and crossing the border into neighbouring Bangladesh, were predominantly male. The 2012 attacks in Rakhine state however, resulted in a drastic increase in women and girls also undertaking dangerous boat journeys in search of refuge. These journeys entailed not only violence and hardship, but also regular incidents of trafficking, rape, and forced marriage. Based on multi-sited feminist ethnographic research with Rohingya refugee women living in an urban squatter settlement on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as well as with women in the Kutupalong-Balukhali refugee mega-camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, this paper traces Rohingya women’s experiences of forced migration on their everyday lives and subjectivities. The narratives of Rohingya women’s perception of their own lives are vital to understanding how they navigate their host communities to create a semblance of home and belonging in displacement.

Shawna Shapiro

Shawna Shapiro is an associate professor of writing and linguistics at Middlebury College, where she also directs the Writing and Rhetoric Program. Shapiro’s research focuses on college transitions and innovative writing pedagogies for international and immigrant-background students. Her work has appeared in Research in the Teaching of English, TESOL Quarterly, and the Journal of Language, Identity & Education, among others. Her first book is titled Fostering International Student Success in Higher Education (2014, TESOL/NAFSA). Her second book, a co-edited collection titled Educating Refugee-background Students: Critical Issues and Dynamic Contexts, was published in 2018 (Multilingual Matters).

Abstract: The Role of Discourse in Educational Policies for Refugee-background Students

This presentation draws on research from educational linguistics to examine trends in media and educational discourse about students and families who have experienced forced migration and have resettled in North America, Europe, and Australia. I trade the theme of deficit discourse in news coverage and explain how this discourse in turn informs educational policies and practices. I argue that a focus on psychological trauma, low literacy, and gaps in education allows schools to avoid taking responsibility for educational inequity. While some of these trends have been discussed in other research, few scholars have identified alternatives to deficit discourse. I address this gap by presenting my “asset discourse” framework (Shapiro & MacDonald, 2017; Shapiro, forthcoming), which foregrounds three thematic threads: Aspiration, Critical Awareness, and Societal Contribution. I highlight examples of this asset discourse in practice, from school districts near Burlington, Vermont, the center of my investigations and community engagement work.

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