By their very nature, the issues of migration and displacement cut across borders and temporal frames; indeed, they are “global” in the broadest sense of the word. Nevertheless, scholarship on immigration, refugees, and displacement — even within a single discipline — still tends to be bound by distinct time periods and/or nation-state frameworks. We aim to bridge these traditionally separate fields by establishing a forum for scholars across UM departments to engage in discussions, workshops, and collective research.
We approach migration and displacement as terms that encompass a wide range of human experience. One of our guiding questions stems from observing the construction of arbitrary distinctions between groups. We ask, for instance, what makes the arrival of an “Other” welcome or unwelcome? What characterizes some people as “migrants” and others as “settlers” or “ex-pats”? How do studies of migration, colonialism, and imperialism intersect and overlap? We will interrogate the ways in which individuals, organizations, and states rely on existing and evolving social categories to classify groups of people on the move. We will consider how race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, disability, political affiliation, and nationality factor into a “hierarchy of desirability” that structures the boundaries between “citizens” and “noncitizens,” “immigrants” and “refugees,” and “legal” and “illegal” migrants. We strive to understand the impact of these classificatory systems, which condition a person’s ability to move freely or to become rooted in a place, and which often serve as justifications for incarceration or other forms of forced immobility and confinement. The goal of the Migration & Displacement Interdisciplinary Workshop is to explore these interconnected issues and build a stronger understanding of their conceptual and material relationships.