Center for Forced Migration Studies (CFMS) Launches
by Galya Ruffer, International Studies Director, and CFMS Founding Director
What began last spring at the Buffett Center as the Center for Asylum Evidence Advocacy has now grown into the Center for Forced Migration Studies (CFMS) bringing together an interdisciplinary community of scholars and practitioners from the Chicago area interested in research, documentation and training in forced migration. In recent years, the concept of forced migration has challenged the field of refugee and migration studies to broaden its focus from movement across borders and a legal distinction between refugees and migrants, and to focus instead on the changing nature, causes and consequences of forced displacement and mass migrations—including internal displacement; crises of persistent and systemic violations of human rights; environmental, economic and development based displacement; and human smuggling and trafficking. Research in forced migration closely correlates with questions of sovereignty, failed states, security and conflict, nationalism, racial and ethnic identity, ethics, global health, poverty, natural disasters, food and energy crises, development and globalization. The CFMS has recently formed a faculty working group, and current affiliates include scholars from WCAS Departments of Political Science, Sociology, Economics, Anthropology and History; the Programs of International Studies and Environmental Policy and Culture; the Medill School of Journalism, the School of Communication and the School of Education and Social Policy; as well as scholars from neighboring institutions such as the University of Wisconsin and DePaul University. The CFMS also hosts graduate and undergraduate fellows and interns and provides documentation and research support to area organizations such as the National Immigrant Justice Center.
The new CFMS launched an inaugural speaker series, “From Refugee to Forced Migration Studies: Defining the Humanitarian Problem,” in order to raise awareness and reach out to faculty, students and local organizations and practitioners during this formative stage. Howard Adelman, founder of York University’s Center for Refugee Studies, presented the inaugural lecture of the series on January 20th speaking on “Refugees and the ‘Rite’ of Return.” He highlighted the transition from an international regime premised on the separation of ethnic populations or, as he called it, “ethnic cleansing,” until a post-World War II policy shift that, through the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), promoted the “right of return” as a human right. Adelman explored the origins of why the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, came to emphasize the foundational pillar of “non-refoulement,” meaning protection from forced return, while the UNRWA focused on the “right of return.” Through a global survey of actual cases of repatriation, he pointed to the gap between theory and the actual practice and feasibility of repatriation, arguing, in the end, for the need for a greater emphasis on resettlement.
The second event in the series brought the issue of resettlement to the fore through the screening of the film “Rebuilding Hope: A Documentary on South Sudan”, that follows the journey of three “lost boys,” now in their twenties, returning home after fleeing brutal civil war as children. Garang Mayuol, one of the boys featured in the film, led the discussion afterward and talked about their ongoing projects to drill wells, provide medical assistance and build a school in their home villages. He also fielded questions about the current political situation and chances for independence in South Sudan.
Upcoming events include a lecture on April 12 by professor and co-founder of the CFMS, Otunnu Ogenga, “Human Rights Relativism and Humanitarian Imperialism? Western Response to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda,” hosted by the Program of African Studies. There will also be a panel discussion and presentation by the Climate Wise Women project on April 13th, co-sponsored with the Program for Environmental Policy and Culture. The event features four women community activists from the Cook Islands, the Carteret Islands off of Papua New Guinea, Uganda, and Biloxi, Mississippi, who are firmly engaged in dealing with the effects of disastrous climate change.
For information about affiliating with the CFMS or joining the Faculty Working Group please contact Galya Ruffer (email@example.com).