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Cornell University

Cartographies of Racial Justice Beyond Borders: Territories of Dispossession and Migration

What does a map of the future look like? This summer, we hosted a cohort of 30 participants to engage in critical race theory, global migration studies, and speculative design to map the terrain of the future of global racial justice. The Migrations initiative and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies hosted the inaugural Migrations summer institute, “Cartographies of Racial Justice Beyond Borders: Territories of Dispossession and Migration.” 

With a focus on borders as geopolitical constructs, we collectively considered the long history of planetary human migration, the timeline of racial capitalism, and the requisite geographies of dispossession. Participants were mentored, working in groups to create a speculative design digital atlas and podcast. Inspired by the urgent work of critical geographers and afro-futurists, mapping racial justice will engage horizons of abolitionism, Indigenous futurisms, decoloniality, and Black feminisms. Themes will include decolonial cartography, queer ecologies, climate justice, immigration rights, digital borderlands, and global surveillance.

Keynote Lecture: Emma Dabiri

Our final keynote lecture of the inaugural Migrations Summer Institute discussed the mapping of race, colonialism, and hair. Dabiri guided us through the geometries and fractals of African-diaspora braiding and cartography. Her latest documentary Hair Power: Me and My Afro asks some of the most important questions facing the Black British population and how it is that hair became one of the most misunderstood, celebrated, and debated aspects of the black experience.


Overview

Participants were advanced graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early career scholars. They came from a large swath of disciplines and worked in dialogue with each other. Over the two weeks, participants:

  • Produced a collaborative digital map and podcast
  • Attended public humanities workshops
  • Got feedback and mentorship on a co-written curatorial essay from summer school faculty and participants
  • Conversed with leading migration and racial justice experts through keynote and small group sessions
  • Created curricular design on the relationship between racism, dispossession, and migration

Vision

Troubling the notion of the United States as a “nation of immigrants,” we considered the contours of internal and external migration globally, forced and voluntary, across time and space. The European conquest of the Western hemisphere is an ongoing project of the dispossession of Native sovereignty entangled with African enslavement. In the contemporary moment, racism, dispossession, and migration are intertwined in the apparatus of modern-day deportations, which call into question the very definition of the border and long histories of border crossing. Human migration spurred by economic distress, climate crisis, political conflict, and militarism continues to shape the asymmetries of who has a right to the future.

With generous support from The Mellon Foundation, this two-week institute centered migration studies as a multidisciplinary field of study and as heterogeneous movements that often reflect, respond to, or are shaped by racism, xenophobia, and violence. As a field, how does migration studies map and respond to this violence? What potential does migration studies hold for effectively documenting this violence and for mapping alternative possible futures?

Week One 

Week one included lectures, roundtables, and workshops representing a range of disciplinary approaches to the study of migrations and its intersections with racism and dispossession. We will introduce collaborative tools for cartography projects as storytelling, podcasting, and curatorial writing. 

Week Two

During week two, participants collaborated during studio time online to produce a digital map that responds to migration and dispossession and brings participants’ research and personal geographies into dialogue towards an exhibition for the virtual public. An audio component of the atlas formed a podcast to debut after the institute. 

Across both weeks, participants had the opportunity to receive feedback from institute faculty and participants on work in progress (e.g., dissertation/book chapter, article).