June 20 is World Refugee Day. With hundreds drowning in the Mediterranean as they try to get to Europe and thousands of people languishing in camps around the world, it seems especially crucial to turn to scholarship to understand what’s behind these crises. Here are some titles that address the issue of refugees worldwide. And don’t forget, today is the final day to save 50% on these and all in-stock titles using coupon code STOCKUP.
In Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine, Catherine Besteman looks at how people whose entire way of life has been destroyed and who witnessed horrible abuses against loved ones are able to construct a new future. Besteman follows the trajectory of Somali Bantus from their homes in Somalia before the onset in 1991 of Somalia’s civil war, to their displacement to Kenyan refugee camps, to their relocation in cities across the United States, to their settlement in the struggling former mill town of Lewiston, Maine. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Nichola van de Walle said, “Her book should be required reading for policymakers currently debating what to do with refugees from Syria.”
In The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages, Mimi Thi Nguyen examines the self-interested claims of the United States to provide freedom to others, even as it does so by generating violence and displacement through overpowering warfare. ocusing here on the figure of the Vietnamese refugee as the twice-over target of the gift of freedom—first through war, second through refuge—Nguyen suggests that the imposition of debt precludes the subjects of freedom from escaping those colonial histories that deemed them “unfree.” To receive the gift of freedom then is to be indebted to empire, perhaps without end.
Art can be a powerful way to address the plight of refugees and the stateless. In The Migrant Image T. J. Demos examines the ways contemporary artists have reinvented documentary practices in their representations of mobile lives: refugees, migrants, the stateless, and the politically dispossessed. Discussing art from Palestine, Lebanon, North Africa, and the United States, Demos shows the ways artists creatively propose new possibilities for a politics of equality, social justice, and historical consciousness from within the aesthetic domain.
For two historical perspectives on the lives of refugees during and following World Wars I and II, read In the Aftermath of Genocide: Armenians and Jews in Twentieth-Century France by Maud S. Mandel or Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR, and the Jews of Sosúa by Allen Wells. Both look at the lives of the Jews in the twentieth-century who escaped genocide but were faced with being refugees.
For further reading, check out these recent articles from Duke University Press journals:
In “Cities of Refuge” by Maryann Jacobi Gray in Tikkun, volume 31, issue 2, Gray delves into being an “accidental killer” and turns to religion to learn more about Cities of Refuge and welcoming strangers.
“They did not set quotas. They did not turn them away. Rather than complaining that the killers were a burden, they helped them become productive members of the community… I expect that some were grateful for the safety of the city while others resented their confinement. It didn’t matter—they needed sanctuary, so the community took them in.”
Gray concludes her article by calling for modern cities to become places of refuge.
“Looking for Humanitarian Purpose: Endurance and the Value of Lives in a Palestinian Refugee Camp” by Ilana Feldman in Public Culture, number 77 explores the vexing question of humanitarian purpose by considering the challenge of defining and pursuing this purpose in the context of long-term humanitarian interventions, when the clarity of saving lives from immediate danger recedes from its central place in humanitarian practice.
In “The Gates of Greece: Refugees and Policy Choices” by Ismini A. Lamb in Mediterranean Quarterly, volume 27, issue 2, Lamb addresses the role European leaders have in Greece’s resolution of the refugee crisis.
These titles are all 50% off, today only. Use coupon code STOCKUP.