A critical societal challenge today, the subject of armed conflict or disaster zone has been mostly studied through the field of human rights connected with forced migration, displacement, violence, and power abuse. Less has been explored about armed conflicts and im/mobility. An understandable and common human reaction to militarized and disaster areas is to try to escape danger by moving away. However, not all can emigrate. In many cases, they need to “shelter in place.” Immobility presents a broad range of challenges to those who remain in precarious conditions: they seek means for survival, from new and changed labor and educational opportunities, trade, extended family support, community networking, etc. In the face of conflicts, war, and death, artists, writers, and journalists continue to document human experiences, tragedies, emotions, grief, and resilience.

“Armed Conflicts and Im/mobility: The Courage, Creativity, and Resilience of People Remaining in Conflict and Disaster Zones” has a focus on Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine, and one on the Congolese city of Goma, currently surrounded by Rwandese-backed militia and cut off from the rest of the country, represent the breadth of inquiry: we seek to understand both headline news conflict situations and other wars that are ongoing but “forgotten.” Equally vital is to examine natural and manmade disasters and their im/mobility repercussions, including such workplace calamities as the Bangladesh 2013 garment factory collapse and the more recent massive fire there in a juice factory that killed over 50 people. In addition, the project’s programming and activities will interrogate the common understanding of terms and phrases, such as internally displaced people, asylum seekers, stateless people, illegal and undocumented immigrants, individuals under UNHCR refugee mandate, activists seeking emergency relocation, and immigrant detainees.

The project’s goal is twofold: 1) to explore how armed conflicts/disasters impact migration/immigration/emigration: and 2) to document and investigate how civilian populations survive in the midst of armed conflicts and disaster zones. Our multi-disciplinary group will offer a new point of entry into debates concerning the experiences of people described above. We are using the cultural interpretive framework of the humanities, the arts, and architecture to rethink im/mobility crises, advance the public dialogue surrounding their problems, and offer alternatives to existing approaches based mostly on human rights. Our collaboration underlines the value of liberal arts and humanities education for shaping conversations, informing policy decisions, and cultivating a new generation of global citizens. The short-term goal of this project is to enhance curriculum development, undergraduate learning, graduate and faculty research, and public engagement on one of the GAHDT’s foci on global migration, mobility, and immobility. The outcomes will advance the study of im/mobility in militarized zones. It will also strive to understand the tactics and strategies of individuals who are sheltering in place, in order to foster a deeper understanding of critical societal challenges across the globe.