Displacement and the Making of the Modern World Conference
April 21-22
Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute
Brown University

Note: Each speaker will get 15-20 minutes to present a summary of his or her paper. The discussant will offer comments on all the papers for 15-20 minutes, followed by Q&A for 30-35 minutes. Thus each panel will be of 90 minutes, the first one hour reserved for the presenters and the discussants.

Day 1: April 21 (Friday)

8:30-8:45 AM
Opening Remarks: Beshara Doumani

8:45-10:15 AM
PANEL 1: Timescales of Displacement

Panel Organizers: Tamara Chin and Rebecca Nedostup

Panel Abstract:

Displacement is commonly addressed as a modern phenomenon whose scales of human impact and historical narration are specific to the past five hundred years. This panel brings together scholars of premodern Eurasia to discuss aspects of displacement in the longue durée as a means of exploring scale and time frame (e.g., ecological and silk road history).

Speaker 1: James Milward, Professor of Intersocietal History at the Walsh School of Foreign Service and Department of History, Georgetown University

Paper Title: “Connectivity and Displacement in the World History Paradigm from the Big Bang to OBOR”

Paper Abstract:

The field of “Big History” or “World History,” as recently invented and currently practiced, stresses connections and encounters between environments and people on a cosmic scale and over the very longue durée.  Its ideological underpinnings as a counter-argument to  anthropocentrism and the “clash of civilizations” discourse in a globalizing era are not hard to perceive.  Yet the connections, exchanges, interactions, hybridizations and syncretisms implicitly celebrated in the World History grand narrative come at a cost.  The occasion of the “Displacement and the Making of the Modern World” seminar and the current worldwide nativist reaction to “globalization” encourages a glass-half-empty look at displacement as the Dopplegänger of connectivity in world history, and especially in the silk road type historical phenomena that are the subject of the author’s current research.

Speaker 2: Alan Mikhail, Professor, Dept. of History, Yale University

Alan is the author of Under Osman’s Tree: The Ottoman Empire, Egypt and Environmental History, The Animal in Ottoman Egypt, and Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt: An Environmental History; and the editor of Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa.

Paper Title: “Climate and Crisis in a Place Called Ottoman Iceland”

Paper Abstract:

In June 1783, the Laki volcanic fissure began erupting in Iceland. It would continue to do so for the next eight months. One of the largest volcanic discharges in recorded history, the ash it produced led to cold summers across Europe, the Mediterranean, the Americas, and parts of Central Asia. This lecture examines the impacts of the explosions on Ottoman Egypt and uses this climate history of Iceland and Egypt to analyze ways of doing global environmental history.

Chair and Discussant: Rebecca Nedostup

10:30-12:30 PM
Panel 2: Outside the Political, What’s Human?

Panel Organizer: Leela Gandhi

Speaker 1: Giovanna Covi, Associate Professor of American Literature and Gender Studies at the University of Trento, Italy.

She has a degree in American Literature from the University of Venice and a PhD in English from Binghamton University. Her research focuses on feminist theory in relation to Caribbean and African-American literatures, and she is particularly interested in bridging the gap between the academy and grassroots movements. She is the author of Jamaica Kincaid’s Prismatic Subjects: Making Sense of Being in the World (2003) and of essays in From English Literature to Literatures in English (2005), Edward Said and Jacques Derrida: Reconstellating Humanism and the Global Hybrid (2008), Literatures in English: Priorities of Research (2008), and in the journals Review of Contemporary Fiction, The Journal of Contemporary Thought, Synthesis, and Rivista di Studi Americani

Paper Title: “A Poetics of Solidarity and Mercy: Engaging the Crisis of Europe with Leela Gandhi, Judith Butler, and Michelle Cliff”

Paper Abstract:

The crisis of Europe, which exploded with the Greek crisis and was sealed by Brexit, has been characterized for decades by the human catastrophe of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. I argue that Europe’s deeply political crisis exposes a conceptual weakness in its own original idea—the weakness of separating politics from poetics, and thus relying on concepts that exclude tensions and ambiguities. I analyze Europe’s founding concept of solidarity and the Judeo-Christian concept of mercy. In the past half century, these two concepts have been framed within a binary paradigm that has culturally produced the limitations and the conundrum that are now paralyzing Europe’s political action.

Speaker 2: Christian Nyampeta: Artist and PhD candidate in the Visual Cultures Department of Goldsmiths University of London. His research is concerned with issues of Living Together: individuality, conviviality and industriality. Ongoing projects center around migratory and performative practices including forms of habit that emerge in camps as types of provisional community.

Paper Title and Abstract: Forthcoming

Speaker 3: Malasree Neepa Acharya, Visiting Scholar, Center for Contemporary South Asia and Dept. of Anthropology, Brown University.

Member of the Teaching Team, Program in Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Stanford Center for Professional Development. Researcher, Migration, Diversity and Justice, Institute for European Studies,Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Paper Title and Abstract: Forthcoming

Chair: Leela Gandhi

Discussant: Anna Thomas

Anna is a PhD candidate in the English Department at Brown University. Her project brings together postcolonial theory, diaspora, and ethnic studies under the framework of ethics. She is currently working on how the categories of injury, mourning, and habit animate and interrupt colonial, anti-colonial, and postcolonial discourse.

2:00-3:00 PM
Field Engagements

Speaker 1: Rabih Torbay, Senior Advisor, Humanitarian Affairs, Policy and International Relations

Paper Title and Abstract: Forthcoming

3:15-5:30 PM
Panel 3: Nation-States, Violence, Inclusion and Exclusion

Organizer: Vikram Thakur

Speaker 1: Lindsay French,  Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

Lindsay’s research focuses on post-Pol Pot Cambodia and the process of social and cultural reconstruction in the aftermath of genocide. She has worked with Cambodian refugees in the US and Thailand, and re-patriated refugees as well as those who never fled the country in Cambodia itself, since 1986. She is especially interested in families divided by war, displacement and migration, and the efforts to maintain family ties attenuated by time, space, politics, and very different economic opportunities. Her current project looks at the rise of Christian evangelicalism among Cambodian youth born after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge, finding their way in a country increasingly shaped by a global economic and cultural processes.

Paper Title: “From Collateral Damage, to Victimized Refugees, to Deportable Felons: Cambodians in the Shifting Focus of American Priorities”

Paper Abstract:

55,000 Cambodians, survivors of civil war, displacement, famine and the violent dictatorship of the Khmer Rouge revolution, were resettled as refugees in the US in the early 1980s. However, these refugees encountered a very different citizenship and authority structure than the one they left behind, and have found themselves victimized and excluded a second time by a state they assumed would protect them. This paper looks at the last 45 years of Cambodian history and the way US government policy has intersected with it, first destabilizing the society and government, contributing to the rise of the Khmer Rouge; then offering refuge to the survivors of genocide; and finally, punishing resettled refugees who “failed to integrate” as law-abiding citizens with deportation to a “homeland” many had never known.

This is a story of the serial displacement and serial re-classification of Cambodians, from collateral damage, to victims of genocide, to deportable felons, by a succession of US governments much more concerned about the political effects of their policies than their human consequences.

Speaker 2: Victoria Sanford, Professor and Chair of Anthropology, Lehman College, Central University of New York.

Victoria is teh founding director of the Center for Human Rights and Peace Studies at Lehman College. She is a member of the anthropology doctoral faculty at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She holds a doctorate in Anthropology from Stanford University where she studied International Human Rights Law and Immigration Law at Stanford Law School. She is the author of Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala  (2003), Violencia y Genocidio en Guatemala  (2003),  Guatemala: Del Genocidio al Feminicidio (2008), La Masacre de Panzos: Etnicidad, Tierra y Violencia en Guatemala (2009), and co-author of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation’s report to the Commission for Historical Clarification (the Guatemalan truth commission). She is co-editor (with Katerina Stefatos and Cecilia Salvi) of Gender Violence in Peace and War (2016).

Paper Title: “Peacebuilding in Wartime:  Colombian Peace Communities & Guatemalan Communities of Populations in Resistance (CPRs)”

Paper Abstract:

Based on extensive field research in Guatemala in the 1990s and Colombia in the 2000s, this paper explores the ways in which displaced indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities as well as rural Maya in Guatemala resisted forced displacement and began peacebuilding in the midst of war – even as they were in flight. While the displacement happened during armed conflict, these communities had long struggled to maintain their land in the face of historic and ongoing usurpation by large local landowners, extractive industries and international agro-export interests. For Colombian peace communities and Guatemalan CPRs, peacebuilding was a means and an end to preserve community identity and culture as well as ancestral lands.

Speaker 3: Jared Mccormick, Affiliate Researcher at Center for Middle East Studies, Harvard University.

Paper Title: “Cascades of Displacement: Kurdish Syrian Migrant Men in Beirut”

Paper Abstract:

This paper is based on fieldwork (2006-2013) with Syrian Kurdish laborers in the context of Beirut. I historically/ethnographically address how we might think through layers of a longue durée of “displacement”; Many of these men come from areas where Arabs were settled in the 60’s, had no formal “papers,” and grew up in a tenuous state in Syria. This was doubly complicated when climactic situations created waves of rural migration across Syria – and into neighboring Lebanon.

In the context of Beirut many of these men were viewed like other “Syrian worker,” but as the Syrian conflict intensified the rhetoric of the refugee, the figure of the “Syrian Male,” and Kurdish nationalism overshadowed many of these men’s place in Lebanon. How can we think through examples of Kurdish migrant men (pre/during-conflict) to problematize waves of displacement and belonging? How does “displacement” mesh – and cojoin – with migration? How might we understand these relationships through a sliding scale that cascades, overflowing from moments and events, to larger phases of our lives? I will present ethnographic material to problematize displacement akin to waves, overlapping scales of time and place.

Speaker 4: Raz Segal, Assistant Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Sara and Sam Schoffer Professor of Holocaust Studies, School of General Studies, Stockton University

Paper Title and Abstract: Forthcoming

Discussant and Chair: Omer Bartov

Professor of European History and Professor of German Studies at Brown University.  He is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of genocide. He is the author of seven books and the editor of three volumes. His most recent book, Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine (Princeton, 2007), examines the politics of memory in Western Ukraine and erasure of both the memory and the few material remains of Jewish culture there.

Day 2: April 22 (Saturday)

9:00-10:15 AM
Field Engagements

Speaker 1: Dr. Unni Karunakara, International President, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), 2010-13. Presently, Senior Fellow, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale University.

10:30-12:30 PM
Panel 4: The Long Twentieth Century and Displacement

Panel Organizer: Vikram Thakur

Speaker 1:  Omolade Adunbi, Associate Professor, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Omolade is a political anthropologist and an Associate Professor at the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS), Faculty Associate, Program in the Environment (Pite), Faculty Associate, Donia Human Rights Center (DHRC) at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His areas of research explore issues related to resource distribution, natural resource extraction, governance, human and environmental rights, power, culture, transnational institutions, multinational corporations and the postcolonial state. His latest book, Oil Wealth and Insurgency in Nigeria (Indiana University Press, 2015) addresses issues related to oil wealth, multinational corporations, transnational institutions, NGOs and violence in oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. His current research focuses on the interconnection between special economic zones and oil.

Paper Title: “‘We Own This Oil’: Artisanal Refineries, Extractive Industries and the Politics of Oil in Nigeria”

Paper Abstract:

This paper investigates the rise of artisanal oil refining industry in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the summers of 2015 and 2016, the paper shows how such refineries is not only representative of many of such refineries that litter the creeks of the Niger Delta but tells the story of how oil infrastructures have become a contested field between the state, multinational oil and local youths in Nigeria. The paper further suggests that the politics of crude oil governance reveal complex, integrated, and innovative forms of extractive practices by youth groups within many Niger Delta communities. The paper asks for example: how does artisanal processes and structures of extraction reflect innovation and hybrid forms of knowledge? How might technologies of ogogoro (local gin) production, made popular by youth in the 1930s, help understand today’s extractive practices in the oil enclave of the Delta?  How do the technologies of crude refining reshape extractive practices in resource enclaves of the Delta? How is it that state structures of extraction compete with artisanal refining of crude oil in the Niger Delta? Therefore, I argue that a cursory look at the history of other forms of extraction in Nigeria provides the useful lens within which to see how artisanal refining of oil is reshaping livelihoods, community relations and governance in Nigeria.

Speaker 2: Anthony Oliver-Smith, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Florida

Paper Title: “Climate Change and the Displacement of Indigenous Peoples: The Case of Gunayala, Panama”

Speaker 3: Emrah Yildiz, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences College Fellow 2016-17; and Assistant Professor of Anthropology and MENA Studies, Northwestern University

His work is a historical anthropology of routes of mobility between Iran, Turkey and Syria. Emrah’s research lies at the intersection of historiography and ethnography of borders and their states; ritual practice, saints and visitation in Islam; as well as paper currency and contraband commerce in trans-regional political economy. His current book project, The Ways of Zaynab via Turkey: Genealogical Geographies and Arrested Mobilities across Iran and Syria, brings these areas of scholarship into conversation as it follows the pathways of a ziyarat (visitation) route, often referred to as Hajj-e Fuqara’ (pilgrimage of the poor) from bus stations in Iran, through informal bazaars in Turkey, to the Sayyida Zaynab shrine in Syria. He is also interested in studies of gender and sexuality in the Middle East and is currently at work on a second project on LGBT and queer Iranian asylum-seekers at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Turkey.

Emrah is co-editor of Jadaliyya’s Turkey Page, and co-editor (with Anthony Alessandrini and Nazan Üstündag) of the collection “Resistance Everywhere:” The Gezi Protests and Dissident Visions of Turkey (2014).

Paper Title: “Rerouted Displacements: The Ways of Zainab between Iran and Syria via Turkey”

Discussant: Patrick Heller, Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs, Brown University

Chair: Daniel Smith, Faculty Fellow Professor and Chair of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at Brown University

Mellon Sawyer Seminar

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