Critical Refugee Studies and Refugee Worldmaking
This graduate seminar will explore the topic of “refugee worldmaking.” Driven by interlocking systems of colonialism, war, militarism, climate change, and racial capitalism, the “crisis” of refugee displacement is indicative of a state of permanent wartime that has marked the post-Cold War era. The exponential growth of the global refugee condition has taken shape alongside the emergence of Western, liberal regimes of refugee governmentality such as humanitarianism, state multiculturalism, and refugee biomedicine. In response to these intersecting fields of power, how can we center the refugee as a subject of knowledge production and creative vitality?
We will begin the course with an overview of foundational theories of sovereignty, the state of exception, biopolitics, and necropolitics in the works of philosophers such as Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, Michel Foucault, and Achille Mbembe. We will then turn our attention to more contemporary scholarship and to the political-aesthetic dimensions of refugee worldmaking via attention to specific geopolitical contexts (e.g. Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Palestine, Syria, Sudan). Our critical focus will be on how refugee methods and epistemologies can help us reimagine decolonial, abolitionist futures.
The final part of the course will attend to generative points of intersection between Critical Refugee Studies and other fields such as Indigenous Studies and Critical Disability Studies, considering, for example, the uneasy slippage between the “unsettled refugee” subject and the “refugee as settler” or how the medical industry has worked to regulate the meaning of refugee and disabled subjectivities in co-constitutive ways. In preparation for the course, students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the methods and keywords outlined on the websites of the Critical Refugee Studies and Migration Network Canada and the Critical Refugee Studies Collective, U.S.A.
Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Refugees: Stories
Souvankham Thammavongsa, How to Pronounce Knife: Stories
Anthony Veasna So, Afterparties: Stories
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous: a Novel
Omar El Akkad, What Strange Paradise: a Novel
Adania Shibli, Minor Detail: A Novel
Ken Liu, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories
Kim Thuy, em
Rithy Panh, dir. The Missing Picture (film)
Min Sook Lee, dir. Migrant Dreams (film)
Ai Weiwei, dir. Human Flow (film)
Remi Weekes, dir. His House (film)
Yen Le Espiritu, Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refugees
Ma Vang, History on the Run: Hmong Refugee Epistemologies
Eric Tang, Unsettled: Cambodian Refugees in the New York City Hyperghetto
Jasbir Puar, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability
Achille Mbembe, Necropolitics
Vinh Nguyen and Thy Phu, editors, Refugee States: Critical Refugee Studies in Canada
All material © Y-Dang Troeung, 2021