The legacy of migration: IRiS seminar series

The programme for IRiS seminar series for the first term of the new academic year is now available.

We start on 22nd October at 2pm with Professor Gracia Liu-Farrer of Waseda University, Japan. She will present a paper based on her forthcoming book on Immigrant Japan: Mobility and Belonging in an Ethno-nationalist Society. 

It is hard to imagine Japan, a society with a strong national cultural identity and a myth of racial homogeneity, as an immigrant society. Although at around 2.5 million and about 2% of the total population, the presence of immigrants is not comparable to that in most other industrial countries, immigrants have nonetheless penetrated every aspect of economic and social life in this island country and are taking part in shaping its future. Based on many years of field research among immigrants from different national backgrounds living in Japan, this presentation examines how immigrants make home, build communities, and understand their existence in a country with distinct patterns of social organization and powerful ethno-national cultural narratives.

The second seminar will be held on 5th November by Dr Lauren Heidbrink of California State University, USA. The talk will examine The Coercive Power of Debt: The migration and deportation of Guatemalan indigenous youth.

The arrival of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children to the United States, most of whom are from Central America, has sparked a debate about whether these young people were refugees or economic migrants. Media headlines and policymakers have attributed the influx of child migrants either to an increase in cartel and gang violence or to deepening poverty in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Amid a global enforcement regime characterized by the proliferation of private detention facilities and deportation as a routine state practice, the illicit market for clandestine migration has grown in terms of both cost and risk. This presentation illuminates an emerging type of migration—debt-driven migration—and its specific impact on young people in an effort to blur the oppositional distinction between forced and voluntary migration under international refugee law. Based on a multi-sited ethnography in Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States among Mam and K’iche’ youth, I trace both the growing prevalence of financial institutions and organizations issuing credit that is used to fund undocumented migration, and the ways K’iche’ and Mam families enlist borrowing to navigate the everyday impacts of intergenerational poverty.

Our final talk before the Winter break (3rd December) will be given by Emeritus Professor Robin Cohen of the University of Oxford and will explore what happens when creolization meets super-diversification.

Superdiversity is best understood as a condition. Super-diversification is a process involving increased complexity. But does complexity imply social fragmentation or the multiplication of opportunities to fuse, synthesize, hybridize or mongrelize? These phenomena, for reasons to be explained, the speaker will call creolization. Does creolization escape, neutralize, overcome, or get defeated by super-diversification? Are they alternative or parallel trajectories?

Seminars are open to the public.


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