While the exile has long received attention as a figure for the intellectual or cosmopolite, this group will focus on the migrant, a precariously mobile subject variously interpellated by the state as the vagrant, the refugee, or the asylum seeker. Disenfranchised, vilified, legally persecuted, and denied rights--often, indeed the very definition of a person without rights--the migrant inhabits the crucial underside of the long history of modernity. Migrants test the limits of the social apparatus of the nation state, even as their (mobile) labor helps sustain many of those institutions. The seminar will focus on themes that demonstrate the links between migrancy’s place at the origins of modernity and today’s complicated crises of migration. These include: the aftermath of slavery and the global labor market; the rise of the nation state and the apparatus of social welfare; the movement of ideas along the circuits of migration; and the role of narrative and genre as archives of memory.
The group will give colleagues (both faculty and graduate students) who work in different periods and geographical regions an opportunity to share ideas and resources. Its aims are two-fold: to enrich our intellectual formation and to generate a digital archive of bibliographies to foster research across long historical ranges. Four meetings are planned for Fall 2016 for reading and hearing from expert scholars. Each session will pair two texts, temporally or geographically removed from one another, to develop comparative approaches to migrancy from multiple standpoints. A series of exploratory seminars anchored in the participants’ current research is planned for Spring 2017. Seminars will focus on work in progress rather than formal presentations, and the idea is to not only offer helpful conceptual feedback but also to broaden bibliographical resources and scope. Sessions will not only serve the presenters but also generate a modest web-based archive of readings (likely as an annotated digital bibliography).