LAS Faculty Research Symposium

Migration in a world of walls and borders, Thursday, April 13, 2023. Register:

Migration in a World of Walls and Borders Symposium

Labor, Im/mobility, Sanctuary, Displacement

April 13, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., SCE Room 302

Register for the event. Pre-registration for in-person and virtual attendance will close at 5 p.m. Monday, April 10. In-person walk-in registrations are welcome.

About this symposium: Migration across national borders — documented and undocumented, “voluntary” and forced — has long been a ubiquitous phenomenon in the world. And just as pervasive have been barriers to movement. This symposium brings together a stellar group of interdisciplinary scholars from UIC and beyond — as well as writers, artists and activists — to examine migration and displacement in the context of a world of walls and borders. We are particularly interested in exploring the repercussions, for migrants in particular, of the restrictive, coercive and unfree ways in which movement has been regulated in the world (for example, through restrictive immigration laws, waiting, debt peonage, detention, and deportation). We also want to examine how migrants and their allies have dealt with and sought to mitigate the effects of such restrictive regulation (through sanctuary and other practices). Finally, we discuss processes of displacement more generally — linking migration to the long histories of displacement of racialized communities in the United States and the practices of containment through which they have experienced multiple forms of invisibilization and dispossession.

The “Migration in a World of Walls and Borders” symposium will take place Thursday, April 13. It features a keynote by acclaimed writer Valeria Luiselli and four panels/roundtables on the themes of labor, im/mobility, sanctuary and displacement.


8:30–9 a.m. – Continental Breakfast

9:10-9:15 a.m. – Welcome from Interim Dean Lisa Freeman

9:15–9:30 a.m. – Opening Remarks: Jonathan Inda (UIC)

9:30–10:45 a.m. – Panel 1: Labor

This panel explores the indentured labor migration and debt peonage of migrant workers in the post-slavery Caribbean and the 20th-century U.S. By focusing on the lives, border-crossings and work of people who inhabited multiple vulnerabilities, especially South Asian migrants and noncitizen Mexican minors, UIC historians Jon Connolly and Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez reveal the increasingly unfree, coercive and violent labor arrangements imposed upon these workers, as well as what these histories can tell us about labor migration dilemmas in the current moment.

  • Chair: Xóchitl Bada (UIC).
  • Jon Connolly (UIC) “Indenture, Vagrancy, and Post-Slavery Free Labor in the Era of Emancipation.”
  • Ivon Padilla (UIC) “Migrant Child Labor and Debt Peonage on Farms in Post-1965 America.”
  • Discussant: Cindy Hahamovitch (University of Georgia).

11:00–12:15 p.m.  Panel 2: Im/mobility

The experience of waiting and being in transit is an important, yet undertheorized, part of complex and ever-changing migration dynamics. This panel explores how migrants simultaneously experience mobility and immobilization through waiting and transit times/spaces. By tuning into the embodied experiences of migrants in transit across the migratory corridors connecting the Americas, entrapped in border spaces along those routes, immobilized in detention centers across the Mexico- U.S. border, in the U.S. or in shield countries before reaching Europe, we examine the dialectical tension between mobility and immobilization.

  • Chair: Esmeralda Arrizón-Palomera (UIC)
  • Soledad Álvarez Velasco (UIC) “Between Bodegas, Hotels, ‘Casas de Seguridad’ and Camiones: The Politics of (Im)mobilitites from the Andes to the U.S.”
  • William Walters (Carleton University) “The Deportation Plane: Charter flights and Carceral Mobilities.”
  • Patrisia Macías-Rojas (UIC) “Rethinking Mobility through a Lens of Race and Punishment.”

12:30-1:45 p.m. Lunch Roundtable: Sanctuary

This roundtable brings together scholars investigating sanctuary as an organizing strategy for migrant justice into conversation with Elvira Arellano, a migrant activist whose case helped launch the New Sanctuary Movement against deportations in the early 2000s. It considers sanctuary’s ethical and religious roots and its more contemporary iterations for migrant justice, including the 1980s sanctuary movement for Central American migrants, the New Sanctuary Movement for migrants under threat of deportation, and more recent mobilizations for sanctuary cities, campuses, and congregations.

  • Moderator: Lynda Lopez (UIC).
  • Barbara Sostaita (UIC).
  • Naomi Paik (UIC).
  • Karma Chavez (University of Texas, Austin).
  • Elvira Arellano (Immigration Rights Activist).

2-3:15 p.m. Panel 3: Displacement

Drawing on archival research, oral history interviews, ancestral lived experience, performative public art and dance practice, this panel traces the long histories of displacement and the material and immaterial ways in which un-belonging and dispossession are marked on racialized bodies and communities in the U.S. It asks: who belongs in this nation, this state, this neighborhood? What are some of the practices of containment through which racialized communities have experienced multiple forms of invisibilization, displacement and dispossession? And how do struggles over land, housing and basic human rights speak back to these ideologies and practices of displacement? Through a range of different media and forms of public engagement, this panel not only serves as a medium for witnessing these struggles, but also visualizes modes of subaltern resistance in response to these sustained efforts at racial segregation, containment, deportation and state violence.

  • Chair: Gayatri Reddy, UIC.
  • John Low (The Ohio State University) “Indian Removal from Chicago – From the Trail of Death to a Tale of Erasure.”
  • JeeYeun Lee (Artist) “Whose Lakefront?”
  • Mario LaMothe (UIC) “Krome Avenue: Haiti, Gynecomastia, and US Detention Centers.”
  • Anna Guevarra (UIC) “Dis/Placements: A People’s History of Uptown, Chicago.”

3:30-4:30 p.m. – Keynote: Valeria Luiselli, author and 2019 MacArthur Fellow, introduced by Andreas Feldmann (UIC)

4:30-5:30 p.m. – Reception

Keynote Speaker

Valeria Luiselli, author

Valeria Luiselli, author

Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa and India. An acclaimed writer of both fiction and nonfiction, she is the author of “Sidewalks,” “Faces in the Crowd,” “The Story of My Teeth,” “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions” and “Lost Children Archive.” She is the recipient of a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship and the winner of DUBLIN Literary Award, two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, The Carnegie Medal, an American Book Award, and has been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Kirkus Prize and the Booker Prize. She has been a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree and the recipient of a Bearing Witness Fellowship from the Art for Justice Fund. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Granta, and McSweeney’s, among other publications, and has been translated into more than 20 languages. She teaches at Bard College and is a visiting professor at Harvard University.

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