Skip to main content

Cornell University

2021 Grant Awards

With support from the Mellon Foundation Just Futures Initiative and Global Cornell, the Migrations initiative is funding research and engagement that centers the connections between racism, dispossession, and migration in interdisciplinary, innovative, and impactful ways.

These are our 2021 grant awardees.

Interdisciplinary Team Research Grants

Xenophobia Meter Project: Tracking Xenophobic Twitter Speech to Inform (and Shift) Policy 

The rise of radical, racist, nationalist politics is a global phenomenon. With it, there is an unwitting habituation of the public toward hate-mongering against immigrants as part of a normal political campaign in many jurisdictions. This project has two primary goals. The first is to inform academics, non-governmental organizations, and the public on levels and changes in xenophobic Twitter speech by creating a free-to-use website with a user-friendly UI/UX, an alert notification system, tailored sources, reports, and shareable data in multiple language contexts. Second, it aims to shame governments that ignore and engage in xenophobic speech. The Xenophobia Meter Project (XMP) is a modest response to the above-described problem of ever-increasing anti-immigrant hate speech on the internet and governments’ repeated refusal to govern it effectively. We believe that identifying, labelling and shaming xenophobic speech in a public and easily accessible format will increase public understanding of the problem and show allyship to immigrant communities who endure xenophobic hate. 

  • Co-principal investigator: Beth Lyon (Cornell Law) 
  • Co-principal investigator: Gilly Leshed (College of Computing and Information Science) 
  • Collaborator: Marten van Schinjndel (College of Arts & Sciences) 
  • Collaborator: Bao Kham Chau (Virginia Law) 
  • Collaborator: Matthew Groh (MIT Media Lab) 
  • Collaborator: Joshua Joseph (MIT Quest for Intelligence) 
  • Consultant: Pranoto Iskandar (Institute for Migrant Rights)  
  • Consultant: Lily Pagan (Google) 

From Invasive Others toward Embracing Each Other: Migration, Dispossession, and Place-Based Knowledge in the Arts of the Americas

How is the contemporary ecological crisis an ongoing outcome of the colonial violences that have shaped and continue to shape the lands of what we call the Americas? This interdisciplinary research team represents three generations of women-of-color scholars who each have asked and answered this question in their research and teaching. Now, they have come together, proposing to co-think and co-create with students, community partners, and invited artists in an immersive learning environment that addresses intersecting histories of Indigenous, Chicanx, and Latinx place-based knowledges and ontologies through the lens of the visual, textual, and performative arts. 

  • Co-principal investigator: Ella Maria Diaz (College of Arts & Sciences)
  • Co-principal investigator: Ananda Cohen-Aponte (College of Arts & Sciences)
  • Co-principal investigator: Jolene Rickard (College of Architecture, Art, and Planning; College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)
  • Visual and Conceptual Artist: Sandy Rodriguez

A Compendium on Rights Compliance with a Focus on Racism and Xenophobia

Contemporary racialized stereotypes of migrants, as well as discrimination and xenophobia, must be understood in relationship to the political and cultural landscape that drives the militarization of borders, the concretizing of the police state, and whether and how migrant rights are allowed and respected. This project will address questions related to authority, governance, and racial injustice with a particular focus on the U.S. in comparative context. Research would necessarily work hand in hand with planned public engagement initiatives. This will be done through both academic research, including the collection of a significant new dataset, as well as rigorous, data-informed writing designed to support migrant rights and representation in public discourse. 

A Laboratory on Human Trafficking, Its Origins, and Remedies 

This project will research how laws from the Western legal tradition, ostensibly designed to prevent human trafficking, paradoxically help to promote unfree labor markets while at the same time constraining the agency of the most vulnerable individuals. The research is historical-comparative in nature and most concerned with establishing how U.S. and European legal traditions interact with laws and markets in unfree migrant labor in East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and with how unfree migrant labor from those regions shapes the West in turn. The project team will be analyzing archival documents located in Washington, London, Taiwan, Tokyo, Pretoria, and Brussels as well as conducting interviews with legal authorities and everyday individuals with knowledge of unfree migrant labor.   

Digital and Biological Screening for Post-migratory Stress, Mental Illness, and Cardiovascular Disease in Displaced and Migrating Populations 

This project will evaluate the migratory determinants of cardiovascular and mental health in a cohort of refugees and asylum seekers in New York City using customized digital and biological screening tools. There is strong evidence of health disparities in this population, but limited access and selection bias have hindered thorough investigation. The objective is to identify post-migratory determinants of MSR, CVD, MHI using microbiological (epigenetic and microbial profiling) and macro-biological (digital health) approaches in a cohort of migrating and displaced individuals (i.e., refugees, asylum seekers, and green card holders). 

Risk or Refuge: Inequality in Exposure to Environmental Vulnerability in California

Systemic racism has historically caused low-income and non-white residents to be disproportionately exposed to toxic waste, harmful substances, and pollution. These groups are also less likely to benefit from environmental infrastructure and amenities and have access to fewer assets and resources to recover from natural disasters. This project will use residential address histories from credit data to track how migration within California between 1995 and 2020 shaped individuals’ exposure to a comprehensive set of environmental risks and access to environmental refuges. It will focus on California as a state that has invested in high-quality monitoring and data of environmental conditions, faces multiple overlapping hazards, and has high levels of socioeconomic diversity and spatial inequality.   

  • Co-principal investigator: Kendra Bischoff (College of Arts & Sciences) 
  • Co-principal investigator: Linda Shi (College of Architecture, Art, and Planning) 
  • Co-principal investigator: Laura Tach (College of Human Ecology) 

Small Research Collaboration Grants

Barely Tolerated: An Ethnographic Film about Life in Uncertain Refuge and Deferred Deportation 

This project will research current and former refugees living in Germany under subsidiary protection called Duldung. The investigator will work with refugee filmmakers to collect oral histories and produce a pilot for an ethnographic film. The film, provisionally titled "Barely Tolerated," will shed light on the experiences of refugees living with temporary protection status, which is as precarious as it is poorly understood and underappreciated.    

  • Principal investigator: Saida Hodžić (College of Arts & Sciences) 

Course or Curriculum Development Grants

Caribbean Studies at Cornell: A Proposal for Curriculum Development 

The histories of migration to and from the Caribbean, as well as the region’s centrality to the histories of slavery, capitalism, and freedom makes the Caribbean a critical site for the study of transnational migration, dispossession, and racism. The project will create a curriculum that examines migration historically from the fifteenth century forward, grounds it in global political and economic processes, and explores the cultural production of populations on the move. This curriculum centers the Caribbean in a multi-disciplinary analysis of migration that also puts it in conversation with other world regions.

Critical Perspectives: Racism, Xenophobia, and Immigration 

This project will further develop and enhance an interdisciplinary pilot course covering race and migration in the immigration sphere. The course considers multiple interdisciplinary perspectives, including critical race theory, and reflects on themes of dispossession, migration, and racism, as well as the past, present, and future of immigration. This project will cement into Cornell Law School’s curriculum a seminar focused on race and migration, which will incorporate both a deep theoretical focus and student engagement with migrant advocates. Students will have the opportunity to engage with community advocates and produce public facing works, such as journal articles, blog posts, videos, Instagram stories, and advocacy using other social media platforms. 

Extended GOVT 4032 Immigration and Politics Research Seminar and GOVT 3990 Puzzle Solving with Data 

Contemporary racialized stereotypes of migrants, as well as discrimination and xenophobia, must be understood in relationship to the political and cultural landscape which drives the militarization of borders, the concretizing of the police state, and whether and how migrant rights are allowed and respected. This course will foster cross-campus collaboration and the creation of an interdisciplinary laboratory supporting engaged undergraduate student research and policy writing in collaboration with community partners and the exploration of new International Migrations Bill of Rights (IMBR) Initiative data with a particular focus on issues of discrimination again migrants in the United States. 

Community Engagement Grants

Cherry Artists’ Collective’s 2021-22 Shared Learning Season: “Migrations”

The Collective will produce a four-play season exploring themes of migration, dispossession, and racism. Each play will approach these themes from different geographical and philosophical perspectives, and each production will be accompanied by a public discussion led by a different Cornell faculty partner in the project. These partners will bring the unique perspectives and tools of their respective disciplines to inform the public conversation. The full Cherry “Migrations” season will create a profound, shared learning experience for members of the community within and beyond Ithaca, both student and non-student populations, through the curation of a searching longitudinal conversation about urgent political issues over the course of a nine-month period. 

Grassroots Transnational Networks Fortifying Salvadoran Rural Communities: From Santa Marta to Ithaca

Transnational political and economic forces have depleted rural Salvadoran communities, driving Salvadorans to flee and seek refuge and economic opportunities. They often also face repression and exploitation beyond their national borders. In the U.S., we hear about the plight of Salvadoran refugees, but the voices and aspirations of rural communities left in El Salvador are seldom heard. This project will be developing a different kind of transnational network, which begins with the stories and visions from rural Salvadoran communities and seeks to support several of the grassroots praxis and research objectives of rural communities and organizations in El Salvador that face historical and current dispossession from their lands and livelihoods.  

Refugees Know Things: A Podcast Series and an Installation

This project will bring together refugee and displaced scholars, artists, and activists and cross-fertilize their knowledge and experience with the goal of developing new community-based knowledge frameworks about refuge, displacement, and borders. It will enable conversations and relationships across epistemological and national borders as well as across boundaries between theory and activism, experience and analysis, individual voice, and collective organizing.     

  • Principal investigator: Saida Hodžić (College of Arts & Sciences)