Course description

What are the effects of displacement on tradition, storytelling, and cultural belonging? How does forced migration influence narration, creative expression, and imagination? What are the powers and potentials of artistic communication after existential rupture? What is the role of the storyteller in flight? This course explores expressive cultures in motion, amid crisis, and out of place, and asks how tradition bearers and creative innovators adapt when the communities in which their preexisting cultural practices had once flourished are destroyed, uprooted, transformed, or dispersed. It also asks how researchers, aid workers, activists, and other outsiders might engage in ethical and beneficial ways with individuals and communities in exile. In examining the impacts of forced migration on cultural production, transmission, and innovation, we put classical theories of refugee and migration studies in conversation with recent ethnographies and folklore collections, as well as memoirs, novels, songs, and films by and about displaced persons. With case studies ranging from colonial Africa, to post-war Europe, to contemporary America, we explore what, if anything, holds together the refugee experience, while also interrogating our own neighborly obligations and scholarly commitments as we navigate what has famously been deemed the century of the migrant.


  • Lecturer on Folklore and Mythology, Harvard University
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