UC Riverside Presents ‘Toward a Critical Refugee Studies: A Symposium’

Conference about globally displaced populations on May 25

Tomorrow I Leave, 2010. Image courtesy of Lin and Lam

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – What would you do when your, as Kenyan-born Somali poet Warsan Shire phrases it, “home is the mouth of a shark?” Artists, activists, and academics will gather to tackle that topic at the University of California, Riverside with a symposium on global displacement. The conference is called, “Toward a Critical Refugee Studies,” and will be held on Wednesday, May 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It will be held in Interdisciplinary 1113 and 1128. The event is free and open to the public.

Through panel discussions and performances, the conference seeks to further the emergence of Critical Refugee Studies as an academic discipline. The symposium will serve as a platform for discussing refugee populations and their histories, bringing together experts who will discuss and explore refugees originating from Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

“Existing literature on refugees often emphasizes a narrative arc that connects trauma and survival to economic and cultural assimilation,” said Lan Duong, associate professor in the media and cultural studies department at UCR, and the conference organizer. “Countering this narrative, the symposium will conceptualize the refugee not as an object of rescue, but as a site of social and political critique, whose emergence when traced would make visible the processes of colonization, war, and displacement.”

A portion of the conference will be moderated by author and critic Viet Thanh Nguyen, whose book “The Sympathizer” recently won a Pulitzer Prize. Nguyen is also the author of “Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War.”

The event schedule is as follows:

  • 8:30-9:30 a.m. – Breakfast, INTS 1111.
  • 9:30-11:00 a.m. – Keywords I with Mohamed Abumaye (UC San Diego), Yến Lê Espiritu (UC San Diego), Lila Sharif (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), and Khatharya Um (UC Berkeley), INTS 1113.
  • 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Refugee Nation Workshop with Ova Saopeng (artist and performer), INTS 1113.
  • 12:30-1:30 p.m. – Lunch, INTS 1111.
  • 1:30-3 p.m. – Keywords II with Victor Bascara (UCLA), Lan Duong (UCR), and Ma Vang (UC Merced), INTS 1113.
  • 3-3:30 p.m. – Poetry reading with Mai Der Vang (writer and poet), INTS 1128.
  • 3:30-4 p.m. – Rap performance by praCh (rapper), INTS 1128.
  • 4-4:30 p.m. – Open discussion and Q&A with artists Mai Der Vang, praCh, and Viet Thanh Nguyen (University of Southern California), INTS 1128.
  • 5-5:30 p.m. – Close of conference.

The symposium is made possible with funding from the UCR Center for Ideas and Society and the departments of Asian Studies and Media and Cultural Studies, and the Transpacific Studies Center at USC.

“Looking at the contexts for why refugees are forced to leave and seek refuge elsewhere, the conference examines the wages of war and systems of oppression that have compelled many to leave,” said Duong. “The conversations we wish to facilitate counter the ways in which refugees have been represented – as passive and without imagination – in scholarship as well as culture. To this end, discussions will touch on the arts and the creative impulse; militarism and imperialism; climate change, sexism, and racism; and the lens of human rights through which refugees are often framed in political discourses.”

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-5893
E-mail: mojgan.sherkat@ucr.edu
Twitter: mojgansherkat

Additional Contacts

Lan Duong
Tel: (951)827-5681
E-mail: lan.duong@ucr.edu

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