HRIT Podcast, Episode One

(Re)Settlement: Considering Solidarity and Incommensurability in Refugee Experiences


What do the experiences of Indigenous Americans and refugees coming to the United States have in common?  In a dialogue between Dr. Amy Shuman and Dr. Daniel Rivers, they discuss the intersections of those experiences.  Listen in here: Episode One

Why think across the experiences of displacement ?

The displacement and forced (re)settlement of Indigenous peoples made way for the founding of the United States.  The removal of Native Americans from their land, the decimation of Indigenous peoples and ways of living, their (re)settlement to Reservations, and the ongoing battle over Indigenous sovereignty can speak to many of the experiences of displacement and dispossession around the world.  At the same time, when refugees are accepted into the United States, how is their incorporation part of the ongoing practice of settlement, of settler colonialism and the management national borders?  How is acceptance and incorporation into the United States an opportunity to preserve and reenact the founding and ongoing violence of U.S. sovereignty?

In addition to considering the important connections between experiences of displacement, and thus opportunities for solidarity and kinship, it is crucial to consider their differences and even incommensurability.  For example, in writing about welcoming Syrian refugees to Canada, Zoe Dodd reflects on what it means to welcome newcomers “into” a community.  Dodd acknowledges the fact that humanitarianism can exists alongside violent state practices of oppression and dispossession.  She also explains how practices of “tending to” can both build solidarity while recognizing the ongoing battle for Indigenous sovereignty.

Practices of “tending to” are and will continue to be salient as more and more people are displaced due to environmental disasters and climate change or due to economic survival.  To find the intersections of precarity, and in that to find moments of solidarity, will be a vital strategy for survival.  In October 2016, the Calais Jungle (Europe’s largest unregulated refugee camp) was forcefully destroyed by French authorities.  The autonomous camp symbolized the possibilities and power of collective solidarity.  Its destruction is also a reminder of the  dark side of humanitarianism and the power of the state to manage where people live, who gets to live where, and ultimately, who gets to survive.