“The Global Refugee Crisis: Why People are On the Move”
Virtual convocation featuring Elizabeth Cullen Dunn, Phi Beta Kappa 2020-21 visiting scholar
Thursday, September 24 at 7:30 p.m.
In a virtual convocation to be hosted September 24 at Centre College, Elizabeth Cullen Dunn, professor of geography at Indiana University and Phi Beta Kappa’s 2020-21 visiting scholar, will be speaking on the global refugee crisis, internally displaced people and asylum seekers. For 16 months, Dunn lived with internally displaced people and has dedicated herself to the study of this subject.
“I became very interested in the question of forced migration,” Dunn explains. “There’s a lot of different forms that we see now, like asylum seekers on the US/Mexico border and Syrian refugees. In the majority of the world, people are internally displaced.”
This topic is interesting in its virtual invisibility. Displaced people aren’t always crossing borders, but they lose the home they have in their own country.
“The number of displaced people has been skyrocketing since 1989. Then, it was about 9 million, and today it’s 72 million—that’s exponential,” Dunn says.
Along with discussing why these governments have become so fragile, she also hopes to discuss the aftermath of the digital revolution and how it has increased the conflict and forced migration as a symptom of globalization.
“I want to talk about globalization as the free movement of money and goods but not of labor. Why is it that in an age where everything is moving, the one thing that isn’t is the workers?” she asks.
Dunn says, to her, the most interesting aspect of this topic is the choices these situations are forcing people to make.
“There’s an academic interest question, but there’s also a human rights question.”
However, while we have time to consider the human rights and scholarly questions that refugees pose, displaced people are making choices on pure instinct to protect themselves and their families.
“For me, there’s also a kind of gut reaction to this, which stresses how unbelievably unfair it is to be forced to move,” Dunn explains. “They’re not choosing to do this, or if they are, they’re choosing among terrible options.
“I have a friend who, when he was 15 years old, his hometown was invaded by ISIS. His choices were run or fight for ISIS,” she continues. “To talk about these as choices is crazy, and yet that’s the language that things are being framed in, and the rhetoric used against refugees for me is so profoundly, morally wrong.”
Dunn says she hopes that she can “take all the bits and pieces that people know from the news, and try and set them in a framework that shows you that this is a global problem that comes in different instances.
“The problem that Europe is facing with refugees is the same problem at the US/Mexico border, which is the same problem of Libyans in the Mediterranean sea, which is the same problem that the Rohingya people have in Bangladesh.”
by Ainsley Wooldridge ’21
September 23, 2020