Internally Displaced Persons, Borders, and Refugee Camps: One-Day Conference in 21st-Century Interdisciplinary Studies

Larry McGrath's picture
Call for Papers
April 6, 2017
Connecticut, United States
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, French History / Studies, Humanities, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Philosophy

I felt like I was crossing the border

Donald Trump, California, April 29, 2016

How can we understand Trump’s words as a political comment on an issue that touches the collective imagination? Was Trump’s claim sarcasm or a joke? Was it a provocation? What exactly is the meaning of this phrase? What is its impact on American and international public opinion? Why has it even been uttered?

Numerous questions can be posed in matters of physical borders. But broader problems of borders – their affects, mobilities, and meanings – extend to larger questions. What do we really know about borders as points of passage for relocated persons and refugees seeking camps in new countries and new cultures and new languages? How can we relate to the experiences of more than 60 million refugees since 2015 around the world (according to UNHCR) and how can we present these feelings, thoughts, and beliefs, and address them through interdisciplinary studies in the 21st century? 

Of course, it is not easy to tackle this subject from a single global perspective; but our goal is humanistic. We seek to compile an inventory of issues and resolve seemingly inextricable questions. To do so, we are proposing a one-day conference that will take place at Wesleyan University's Center for the Humanities on April 6, 2017.

It is clear that the subject of refugees and camps has not been studied enough. It is known primarily through the life of the media: questions of refugees, borders, and camps already constitute a significant problem from the point of view of international relations, economics, and the geopolitical. This colloquium, however, aspires to shift the terms of these questions and approach them from the perspectives of literature, social theory, history, philosophy, anthropology, cinema, and the fine arts. Do these fields – contrary to the normal politics of the global community –  approach the lived experience of border crossings only thematically, without offering solutions? Or might interdisciplinary studies enrich our understanding of the present moment? What are the issues underlying these questions? Possible topics include:

  • Walls of separation or the “second borders”
  • Crossing borders as risk and safety
  • Refugee camps as homelessness
  • Political consciousness and humanitarian crises
  • Exclusion and asylum
  • Immigrants and refugees through TV
  • Relocation and refugees and visual arts
  • Artificial spaces of life
  • Paradoxes of insecurity and safety

Please send a one-page abstract in French or English (along with your name and affiliation) to the conference organizers: Hassan Almohammed ( Larry McGrath ( and Rachel Earnhardt ( by January 27, 2017.

Papers should last no longer than 20 minutes.

The languages of the conference will be French and English.

Contact Info: 

Larry S. McGrath, conference co-organizer

Center for Humanities

Wesleyan University

95 Pearl st.

Middletown, CT 06459

Contact Email: