March 3, 2016—As the opening event for the the 2016 book fair, the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics (FLL) hosted the panel discussion “Borders, Migrations, and Transnational Flows” on Monday, February 29. The event featured speakers from several FLL departments: Professors Sylvie Durmelat (Department of French), Nicoletta Pireddu (Department of Italian), Susan Terrio (Department of Anthropology), Anna De Fina (Department of Italian), and current Max Kade Writer-in-Residence Maxi Obexer.
Emerging from diverse disciplinary contexts (film studies, literary studies, cultural anthropology, and creative writing), each panelist shared innovative insights from their current work related to migration in Europe and the United States.
Following introductions by FLL Convenor Friederike Eigler (Department of German), Sylvie Durmelat presented findings from her recently translated volume, Screening Integration: Recasting Maghrebi Immigration in Contemporary France (University of Nebraska Press; co-edited with Vinay Swamy). The book examines the different ways in which Maghrebi films exemplify integration while also participating in and critiquing integration in France. According to Durmelat, not only do these films recast Maghrebi immigration, they also challenge national memory narratives and static notions of ethnicity.
Nicoletta Pireddu continued the discussion with an introduction to the work of Italian writer and European intellectual Claudio Magris from her book, The Works of Claudio Magris: Temporary Homes, Mobile Identities, European Borders (Palgrave Macmillan). In particular, she argues, Magris’s literature provides an opportunity to reflect upon the possibility of a European consciousness, the idea of frontiers, and the important role of narratives in challenging Eurocentrism while exploring common values and issues of concern that transcend national borders.
Next, Susan Terrio turned the audience’s attention to the U.S.-Mexican border and the difficult experiences facing unaccompanied minors detained in federal facilities. Her book, Whose Child Am I? Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in U.S. Immigration Custody (University of California Press), collects multiple interviews and observations of legal proceedings between 2009 and 2012 to shed light on the reasons motivating an ever growing number of children to cross the border, their often harrowing experiences during the journey and within federal facilities in the U.S., as well as a critical evaluation of this federal system that provides neither appointed legal representation nor child advocates to this vulnerable population.
The panel concluded with Maxi Obexer, who described her new theatrical production on “illegal helpers” (Illegale Helfer), performed in German theaters and as a radio play. Her project sheds light on people from different professional, age, and social strata of society who are engaged in helping migrants without legal status, and who do so beyond the confines of the law. She explores the diverse motivations and activities of these helpers through interviews with participants and depicts an example of existing, yet widely unnoticed, activism whose activities help those in need, but are considered unlawful.
As Anna De Fina pointed out in her commentary, in different ways and through the examination of different media, the four panelists stimulated a consideration of contemporary migration issues within diverse socio-cultural contexts, in each case encouraging both critical reflection and empathy.
The presentations concluded with a reception with remarks from Dean Gillis and a book fair to celebrate these recent publications, as well as those of more than twenty additional FLL faculty, showcasing a wealth of humanities and linguistics scholarship at Georgetown College within diverse disciplinary contexts.
—Meghan O’Dea, Department of German