Displaced. Detained. Undeterred: A Creative/Critical Symposium April 20-23, 2023

Displaced. Detained. Undeterred: A Creative/Critical Symposium April 20-23, 2023

Scholars, artists, and organizers who understand the violence of displacement deeply and intimately narrate and theorize how borders, militarized imperialisms, and their colonial genealogies shape people’s lives and foreclose the right to both home and refuge. Featuring presentations, performances, films, installations, conversations, and dialogues that reimagine connections between here and there, the past and present, personal and political.

This is an in-person symposium with a hybrid keynote. Register in advance to save your spot in person! 

Thursday, April 20, 2023, 4:30pm, Physical Sciences Building 401: Opening Keynote

Saida Hodžić (Cornell University)


On Refugee Grief: An Intergenerational Remembrance

Yến Lê Espiritu (University of California, San Diego)

Evyn Lê Espiritu Gandhi (University of California, Los Angeles)

This intergenerational remembrance is a portal to a discussion on refugee grief, not as a private or depoliticized sentiment but as a resource for enacting a politics that confronts the conditions under which certain lives are considered more grievable than others.

Moderator: Carla Hung (Cornell University)
6.15 pm Reception: Word of Mouth

To join the keynote virtually, register in advance.

Panels on Collaborations, Enclosures, Routes, Lives and Deaths, and Borders

FRIDAY April 21, AD White House
8.30am Breakfast: Cornell Express


Identity and the Search for Belonging: From Palestine to Syria, to Europe, and Back

Nell Gabiam (Iowa State University); Abu Salma Khalil and Adam Khalil (Toulouse, France)

A conversation about a documentary film about the journey of Palestinian refugees from Syria to Europe, narrating the experience of displacement of the Khalil family and that of other Palestinian refugees who shared this journey. 

Letters from Inside U.S. Detention
Jane Juffer (Cornell University) and Carla

A dialogue that situates the letters Carla wrote Jane from inside immigration detention as a part of the genre of the testimonio.

Collaborative Advocacy against Toxic Land Use and Migrant Detention

Emma Shaw Crane (Columbia University) and Guadalupe De La Cruz (American Friends Service Committee)

A presentation about two collaborative research projects in South Florida investigating the intersection of confinement and environmental racism and a reflection on possibilities for just collaboration between researchers and organizers to end migrant detention.

Moderator: Chantal Thomas (Cornell University)

10.45am Break


Re-Placing Memories through Land Based Practices

Troy Richardson (Cornell University) 

A presentation on the layered histories of violence toward Indigenous peoples in the US southeast orchestrated to deny Indigenous peoples access to their homelands and the ongoing struggles for and successes in maintaining land-based practices for Indigenous resilience and resistance.
Barzakh as Method, Barzakh as Process: Making Sense with the In-between in the Strait of Gibraltar

A. George Bajalia (Wesleyan University)

Building from ethnographic work in Tangier, Bajalia presents on forms of being-in-common that exist outside of, or adjacent too, categories of belonging such as migrant, immigrant, refugee, and asylum-seeker.
Migrant Encounters in Bihać: Anthropologies of Dislocation, Extraction, and Refusal

Azra Hromadžić (Syracuse University)

A reflection on multiple dislocations –the migrants’, the locals’, and the author’s —to illuminate knowledge production, ethnographic extraction, and refusal in the Balkans and beyond. 

Records in Limbo: On the Lore of Crossing Borders

Amir Husak (The New School)

A work-in-progress narrated/live documentary cinema performance about the experiences of refuge and displacement - including Husak’s own - as a thorny body of knowledge in constant need of rethinking. 

Moderator: Masha Raskolnikov (Cornell University)

1pm Lunch: Angkor Cambodian 


Old Benjamin the Refugee

Vinh Nguyen (University of Waterloo)

A narration of Nguyen’s physical retracing of Walter Benjamin’s 1940 escape route via the Pyrenees across the French-Spanish border to explore Benjamin’s refugee experience, and in turn, the import of his thought for refugee studies.

Wanted: Refugee Returns to Germany

Saida Hodžić (Cornell University)

A reflection on the different meanings of the terms “wanted” and “return,” exploring refugees as deportable and criminalized legal subjects and former refugees/new precarious migrants as desired essential workers in the context of the German state and Bosnian post-war refugee returns.
Departure Scene: Redacted Intimacies among UnCitizens in Jordan

Eda Pepi (Yale University)

A reflection on the redaction of intimacies that arose during Pepi’s sudden departure from her fieldwork in Jordan, where dependent nationality forbids women, but not men, from passing their citizenship to children they have with foreigners.

The Place of Liminality in Writing Experiential History

Mostafa Minawi (Cornell University)

A reflection on liminality of existence as a multi-generational refugee and the author’s resulting interest in researching and writing about historical characters living inhabiting a liminal space.

Moderator: Nicole Thuzar Tu-Maung (Cornell University)


Jeff Palmer (Cornell University)

Ghosts tells the story of three Kiowa boys’ daring escape from a government boarding school in Anadarko, Oklahoma in 1891, to attend a ghost dance ceremony at a distant Kiowa encampment.
Moderator: Ami Yayra Tamakloe, Cornell University

6.15 Dinner: Asempe Kitchen

SATURDAY, April 22, AD White House
8.30am Breakfast: Gimme Coffee


Stories No One Wants to Hear: Refugeehood and Diasporic Unbelonging in Bosnian Chicago

Larisa Kurtović (University of Ottawa)

A series of sketches of diasporic life of Bosnian refugees—including petty cigarette smugglers, truck drivers, and those taken by the precursors of what is today known as the opioid epidemic—in the late 1990s Chicago, asking what is left of the refugee experience in the absence of a happy end. 

K’s Suicide

Milad Odabaei (Princeton University)

A narrativization of K.’s story of return to Iran and suicide relating the limits of language and legibility to the queer experience of refugees.
The Feeling of Interruption

Abosede George (Barnard College)

A reflection on the recurrent feeling of life being interrupted that was the author’s condition as an undocumented person. 

Proactive Grief (A Second Installment)

Eman Ghanayem (Cornell University)

A reflection on how Palestinians grieve and anticipate death through the author’s personal reflections on family and community.

Moderator: Brian V. Sengdala (Cornell University)

11am Break 


Leave Not What You Carry: Reflections on Kinship, Belonging, and Identity at the Haitian-Dominican Border

Karina Edouard (Cornell University)

A reflection on the author’s grandparent’s migration and her experience at the Haitian-Dominican border exploring the contradictions, tensions, and afterlife of border crossing as an entry point into what it means to be of a community, not simply in one.
Un/Settling: Living Borders, Materializing Elsewheres

Aradhana Sharma (Wesleyan University)

An autoethnographic meditation on unsettled and disarticulated life alongside borders, examining family lore and ethnographic vignettes that emerge out of the division of Punjab and the construction of India and Pakistan in 1947, illuminating the condition of ongoing displacement and un/settlement in a world of ever-evolving borders.

An Un/Official Archive: Passports, Phone Diaries, and Prints

Natasha Raheja (Cornell University)

A reflection on how my Sindhi refugee grandmother's personal archive from the 1947 India-Pakistan Partition speaks to the ways nations, states, and families come together and fall apart across colonial borders in South Asia.

Connected Fields: Embodying Ethical Dhaqan in Canada

Hannah Ali (Cornell University)

A presentation on Somali-Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area who turn to dhaqan – an embodied African philosophy that prioritizes connections to ancestral land, elders, and the Somali language – to navigate social exclusions and craft ethical futures of community, family, and friendship that contest the modern Canadian state.

Moderator: Sarah R. Meiners (Cornell University)

1.15 pm Lunch: Loumies


3.30 pm Symposium End

AD White House Room 109
Friday 9am-8pm; Saturday 9am-3.30pm 

Refugees Know Things: Podcast Launch and Installation 
Saida Hodžić (Cornell University)
Listen to podcast episodes featuring conversations with refugee scholars, artists, and activists. 

“Refugee Patriots, Refugee Punks,” with Mimi Thi Nguyen (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign)

“Building Power: Hope is a Verb,” with Zrinka Bralo (Migrants Organise, London)

“Critical Refugee Studies,” with Sabrina You and Yến Lê Espiritu (University of California San Diego)

Transnational Network and Conversations about Salvadoran/Central American Migration: Podcast Installation

Sofia Villenas (Cornell University) and Patricia Rodriguez (Independent Scholar and International Analyst/Advocate, Earthworks: Ending Oil & Gas Mining Pollution) 

Listen to podcast episodes featuring stories of migration and the right to stay.  A collaboration between Cornell University, Ithaca College, US-El Salvador Sister Cities, the Association for the Development of El Salvador (CRIPDES), and WRFI Community Radio in Ithaca.

Video Performance: Saltwater at 47 (2016, 5min 46 sec)

Selma Selman (Resident, Rijksakademie Amsterdam)
A video performance about a Roma woman getting her first passport and going on her first seaside vacation at age 47; addressing themes of dispossession, un/citizenship, and family love.

Video Performance: Haram (2019, 10 min)

Selma Selman (Resident, Rijksakademie Amsterdam)

Haram speaks of religion and waterboarding. No matter which God I believe in - as a woman who disobeys social rules that I’m subjected to, I am constantly making sins. In order to clean myself of my accumulated sins, I am washing myself with pure water. This work is also related to state practices of waterboarding and the struggle to maintain oneself while drowning in a foreign land as both refugee and immigrant. 

Short Film: Sindhi Kadhi (2018, 8 min)

Natasha Raheja (Cornell University)

A short film about the intimate relationship between the filmmaker and her Partition refugee grandmother as they cook a traditional Sindhi recipe, recalling the quality of lotus root and other ingredients in Pakistan.

Cosponsored by Anthropology, Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, the Society for the Humanities, South Asia Program, Southeast Asia Program, History, Asian American Studies, American Studies, European Studies, Reppy Institute, Migrations Inititiative, Government, Performing and Media Arts, the Institute for Comparative Modernaties, the South Asia Program, the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program, the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program, Africana Studies, Near Eastern Studies, and the Latina/o Studies Program. 

MITWSrg originated in the mid-1980s as a faculty caucus in the English Department. It is now a research group that includes faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students in the humanities and the social sciences from various departments in the College of Arts and Sciences – and beyond. For more information, please email mitws@cornell.edu if you would like MITWSrg to be the sole or primary sponsor for an event you are planning to organize in minority, indigenous, or third world studies, please send a brief proposal to MITWS’s faculty coordinators Professor Helena Maria Viramontes at hmv2@cornell.edu, or Professor Satya P Mohanty, at mohanty@cornell.edu.

This is an in-person symposium with a hybrid keynote. Register in advance to save your spot in person! To join the keynote virtually, register here.

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