Migration Studio: Topography of the refugee ‘crisis’
The discourse and the images of the flow of people that dominated the early days of the Syrian refugee crisis carried with them a false impression that the issue was temporary and that the emergency stemmed from its mobile character. People were literally washing up on the shores of the Aegean islands, better known in our common fantasy as amiable and frivolous vacation destinations.
Behind these platitudes lay islands that have become prisons for those who have arrived there since the 2016 EU-Turkey deal as well as a refuge for the Turkish intelligentsia escaping Turkey. A multitude of camps that have sprung up along the Balkan route along with identities both old and new. Former military infrastructure and its Cold War echoes recycled for the humanitarian needs of the post-Cold War world. Train tracks that lead back to Turkey, and beyond to Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan…back “home.” New border posts, new border fences, new border dogs, and new border cars. And, the new fence clippers for the journey to Berlin. Along the Balkan route confinement and mobility, transience and permanence are the registers of the refugee ‘crisis’ and, always, much boredom.
Possible Project Work
Migration studio: Topography of the refugee ‘crisis’ focuses on the phenomenon of migration along the Balkan route. It traces the physical, political, legal, social and human terrain of the refugee ‘crisis’ unfolding along one of the main historic migration paths. We take the current refugee situation in this corridor as our departure point. As we shift our gaze from the Turkish Aegean coast, from one island “hot spot” to another, across Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia, we engage with histories of empires and their collapse, ancient and more recent migration flows, and the cultural sediment they have left behind. Student research agendas, internships, and media projects are arranged along several thematic axes connected to broader topics of migration, refugee issues and policies; EU and regional politics; identity relationships, the conversations and the conflicts they spark and the actors that claim them; the built environment, camps, and spaces of confinement and the paths and actors of mobility; the institutional and legal frameworks and the discourses and representations of the ‘crisis’ that have come to define it. You can view examples of work from the 2016 program in the From Bodrum to Belgrade blog.
Migration studio is a group-based project in close partnership with a faculty supervisor (Everita Silina) and, as necessary, engagement with local actors to allow students to learn and explore the topic of migration by focusing on concrete aspects of the current refugee situation in the Balkans. The studio will aid each student in identifying their own research agenda and by developing it into a final project for degree completion.
Students are required to enroll in a spring semester studio, a winter or summer field experience (IFP), and the follow-up fall semester studio. Students have a choice of winter (January; in Lesvos and Leros) or summer (June; in all sites) field experience. A substitute arrangement can be designed for those wishing to remain in the US/NYC.