Tomorrow I Leave, 2010. Image courtesy of Lin and Lam

Tomorrow I Leave, 2010. Image courtesy of Lin and Lam

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( – What would you do when your, as Kenyan-born Somali poet Warsan Shire phrases it, “home is the mouth of a shark?” Artists, activists, and academics will gather to tackle that topic at the University of California, Riverside with a symposium on global displacement. The conference is called, “Toward a Critical Refugee Studies,” and will be held on Wednesday, May 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It will be held in Interdisciplinary 1113 and 1128. The event is free and open to the public.

Through panel discussions and performances, the conference seeks to further the emergence of Critical Refugee Studies as an academic discipline. The symposium will serve as a platform for discussing refugee populations and their histories, bringing together experts who will discuss and explore refugees originating from Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

“Existing literature on refugees often emphasizes a narrative arc that connects trauma and survival to economic and cultural assimilation,” said Lan Duong, associate professor in the media and cultural studies department at UCR, and the conference organizer. “Countering this narrative, the symposium will conceptualize the refugee not as an object of rescue, but as a site of social and political critique, whose emergence when traced would make visible the processes of colonization, war, and displacement.”

A portion of the conference will be moderated by author and critic Viet Thanh Nguyen, whose book “The Sympathizer” recently won a Pulitzer Prize. Nguyen is also the author of “Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War.”

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