“According to UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people both within countries and across borders as a result of persecution, conflict, or generalized violence has grown by over 50 per cent in the last 10 years; there were 43.3 million forcibly displaced people in 2009, and the figure was 70.8 million by the end of 2018 (UNHCR, 2019). Today 1 out of every 108 people in the world is displaced.” (Source)
Friends, I have good news. In the 2020-21 academic year, I will serve as a co-coordinator for the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Rackham Graduate School Interdisciplinary Workshop on Migration and Displacement. My journey towards migration research entails a longwinded and winding narration of mistakes, backtracks, and personal reflection.
As my research moved from examining the social and cultural forms of religious and anti-religious expression in nineteenth-century France and among French intellectuals to the in-and-out migration of Central Asians to Paris from the late nineteenth-century to the Postwar era, I became more aware of the pressing need of scholarly engagement with questions of asylum, policy, race and radicalization, and the politics of displacement and population movement across Europe.
I will have the privilege of working with one of my closest friends and colleagues, Paige Newhouse, whose own research has inspired much reflection in my own work as a graduate student. Together, we hope to continue facilitating research that spotlights the experience and the dynamics of the movement of peoples across the world.
At a moment in which all seems disjointed and out-of-place, we do well to remember the thematic popularized by Bloch: the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous (die ‘Ungleichzeitigket’ des Gleichzeitigen). The world of experience of displaced persons is also out of joint, displaced, and subjected to systems of alienation and estrangement that ultimately refract the institutional incompatibility of liberal discursive regimes of human rights and liberal parliamentary democracy.
Our advocacy must continue to unmask and highlight the injustices of our time. It is my hope that, by participating in this workshop, I can add just a small contribution to fostering our university’s excellent scholarly production regarding questions of migration and displacement.