“When we started to address certain topics and issues, we dove into deep discussion, which I liked a lot.” – McKenzie J. | Chicago, Illinois
Migration has never been so disruptive a phenomenon and omnipresent a political topic as it is today, both globally and in the United States. We are living in a period that is witness to catastrophic refugee crises, with large populations of displaced peoples fleeing war, economic crisis, and political or social persecution across the globe. At the same time, migration is a topic that directly relates to modern concepts of identity. Who are we? What defines us? How does one’s identity change and evolve? Those who migrate to new host countries are directly confronted with these challenging questions. Individual and national identities are formed and evolve based on how these questions are addressed.
This course is an introductory seminar that links the individual human experience of migration to current political and cultural systems. Why do people migrate? How do they migrate? Can they migrate? How are they perceived in the host country? How do migrants view and define themselves? How are concepts of identity affected by the process of migration?
Participants examine migration as a dynamic part of culture and society while discovering how it reflects and shapes our lives. We employ a multidisciplinary approach to look into the concepts of identity and its transformation and to understand migration and how it shapes identity across cultures and contexts. We then utilize this conceptual basis to challenge assumptions and myths we hold about the Other and perceptions we have about Self. Regarding the Other, we also look at how current trends are catalyzing shifts in national and international migration policies—and are sparking growing opposition to immigration in numerous host countries.
We approach the material through various formats including discussion, readings, field trips, research projects, and guest speakers. Class activities involve active application of methods, including researching popular culture information sources, literature, video, and film for indications of how migration defines/redefines cultural and social identities. Guest speakers offer various views of migration and identity across disciplines. We also visit the Tenement Museum, where we explore the story of immigration in New York City.
Outside of class, students read articles on migration theory as well as various case studies, including life stories of young migrants in Europe, accounts of the border crisis in the US, and testimonies from DACA recipients. Drawing on their own social and family networks, participants conduct research on migrant case studies, presenting their results on the last day of class.
Hayet Sellami holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) in Paris and a master’s degree in international relations, with a specialization in East Asia and Asia Pacific, from the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales in Paris. She has conducted extensive fieldwork on migration in China and Taiwan using ethnographic research methodologies. Her research interests include migration and identity formation, migration policies and the concept of boundaries and nations, the impacts of migration on societies, and the philosophical foundations of identity through the concept of Self and the Other. Her professional experience also includes ten years of work as a journalist in East Asia, and consulting work for the private sector and numerous non-governmental organizations and international agencies. She currently teaches at New York University’s Department of French Literature, Thought, and Culture.
Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.