Students Learn About Global Displacement in ‘Migration Stories’

The United Nations estimates that there are about 232 million international migrants worldwide. Many have been forced to leave their homes because of poverty, global conflicts, and natural disasters. To help students understand the causes and effects of migration, Silvia Spitta, the Robert E. Maxwell Professor of Arts and Sciences has teamed up with Gerd Gemunden, the Sherman Fairchild Professor of the Humanities, to offer an interdisciplinary comparative literature course called “Migration Stories.” The focus is on how film and literature represent migrants, borders, and border crossing experiences throughout history.

“In America,” says Spitta, “we tend to think of people traversing only one border, and when students think of migration they think mostly of undocumented people leaving Mexico. We teach them that in Europe’s history there have been patterns of migrations. Migrants have always been ‘othered.’ They have always been seen as strangers, regardless of how similar they may be to the local population. Simply because they are moving, they are made strange.”

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