9:30 am         Registration, Welcome Breakfast and Opening Remarks

9:45-11:15      Session 1: Im/mobility and Migration (panel)

// Moderator: Sona Kazemi Hill (OSU, Postdoctoral Researcher in Migration, Disability Studies, and Medical Humanities)

As a postdoctoral researcher of Migration Studies, Disability Studies, and Medical Humanities at the Ohio State University’s department of English, Sona researches the living conditions of people who become disabled/injured as a result of wars, displacement, incarceration, genocide, and political instability in the Middle East, namely Iran, Iraqi-, and Syrian Kurdistan. Her postdoctoral project builds on her doctoral work in Transnational Disability Studies, completed at the University of Toronto focused on the stories and living conditions of Iranian soldiers who sustained chemical injuries during the Iran-Iraq war.

“Deterring Migration: Death Worlds, Indefinite Detentions and Precariat Migration”

Tania Ruiz-Chapman (University of Toronto, PhD Student, Social Justice Education)

Tania Ruiz-Chapman is a doctoral student in Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto. She is a co-author of the article Global Citizenship as Neoliberal Propaganda (2018). In 2017, she received a Merit Award Certificate as one of six finalists of the international Sociological Association Seventh Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists engaged in social research. She currently works as a teaching assistant for an intro to Disability Studies course. 

“Yazidi Genocide, Ethnic Identity, and Controlling Territory”

Bradley Brincka (OSU, Arabic major)

Bradley is an Arabic major in the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Department. After discharging from the military in 2016, he worked as a researcher on the Yazidi Genocide and Islamic State war crimes investigation with Yazda, an Iraqi-American non-governmental organization based in Iraqi Kurdistan. In 2017, he served as a medical volunteer with the Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian organization assisting the Iraqi Security Forces during the Mosul Offensive.

“Not Traumatized Enough: Race, Gender, and Credibility in Canadian Refugee Hearings”

Louise Tam (Rutgers University, PhD Candidate, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies)

Louise Tam is a PhD candidate in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. Her dissertation, “Palliative States,” maps racialized migrants’ navigation of Canada’s mental health, immigration, and criminal justice system as they attempt to secure legal status and safety. In particular, she interrogates the role of race and mental health evidence in refugee status determination. Louise has published journal articles and book chapters in the fields of Ethnic Studies, Disability Studies, and American Studies on Asian American counseling psychology, mental patients’ rights movements, and psychiatry behind bars.

11:15-11:30    Coffee Break

11:30-12:30    Session 2: Precarious hope: The gendered capacity to aspire among Rwandan urban refugees in Yaoundé, Cameroon (research presentation)

Kelly Yotebieng (OSU, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology )

Turmoil in the Central Africa region has led to over 500,000 refugees and asylum seekers arriving over the past several decades in Cameroon. The overall goal of this research is to shed light on how a growing population of urban refugees recursively rebuilds their lives and communities after conflict and displacement, and how the risks incurred to do so vary by gender. Household aspirations often hinge on shared visions of children’s futures, and mothers are often the first to forego their needs and engage higher risk in order to allow these desired futures to come to fruition. Based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted over 3 years (2016-2018), this research explores aspirations and gendered patterns in risk-taking behavior and household organization over time among urban Rwandan refugees in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The data generated were analyzed inductively pursuant to a grounded theory approach to provide perspectives on the gendered capacity to aspire and related risk-taking practices situated within the broader social, political, and emotional contexts of displaced persons in cities in the developing world. Resilience building programs are high on the humanitarian agenda. This paper provides a better understanding of hope, practice, and risks that lead to desired outcomes of refugees within growing urban centers in developing countries is imperative to inform these resilience building programs that humanitarian agencies are still grappling to design. This is especially important to ensure that gendered disparities are not inadvertently exacerbated in designing these programs.

Kelly Yotebieng is a PhD candidate with the Ohio State University’s Department of Anthropology. Her work has been recognized with several prestigious awards including a Randolph Jennings Peace Scholar position with the United States Institute of Peace, a Fulbright research award, and a National Science Foundation REG grant. Her research focuses on the roles of hope in enduring hardship among refugees globally. Her background prior to joining the Ohio State Anthropology Department includes a B.A. in Applied Medical Anthropology from the University of South Florida and a Masters of Public Health at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine as part of the Masters Internationalist Fellows program in collaboration with the United States Peace Corps in Cameroon. She is fluent in French and has lived and worked since 2004 in Central Africa focusing on humanitarian and public health issues.

12:30-1:30      Lunch (with optional creative activity)

1:30-2:30        Session 3: Immigrant Rights in the Trump Era (public discussion)

// Moderator: Prof. Theresa Delgadillo (OSU, Department of Comparative Studies)

Theresa Delgadillo is a Professor in the Department of Comparative Studies at OSU. A specialist in Latinx Studies with numerous publications, she encourages participants in this forum to read her 2011 article on the figure of the immigrant in 21st century U.S. culture titled “The Ideal Immigrant” and published in Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies, Volume 36, Number 1, pages 37-67. 

Amy Bittner (Immigration Attorney)

Amy will share her experiences working as an immigration advocate representing foreign nationals in the United States in their fight to achieve legal status in the United States. Amy represents primarily the Spanish-speaking community in their family based and asylum cases in Ohio and has volunteered several times as a pro bono attorney representing women detained with their children at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

Amy Bittner is the managing partner at Muchnicki & Bittner, LLP. Amy obtained her law degree from the Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. Prior to studying the law, Amy obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and then a Master’s degree in Spanish, focusing on Latin American Literature and Culture. Amy holds a law license from the state of Ohio and is admitted to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Amy regularly presents informative sessions to the community on immigration subjects and provides pro bono consultations organized through the Catholic Diocese of Columbus. Amy is Adjunct Professor of Immigration Law at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University and is chair of the Ohio chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Ruben Castilla Herrera

Rubén Castilla Herrera is a second generation Mexican-American born in Seguin, Texas. He spent his childhood as a migrant farmworker in California, Oregon and Washington. He graduated from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon and attended the Methodist Theological School in Delaware, Ohio. Herrera is a long time organizer and activist fighting for justice, freedom, dignity and liberation for all people. He was founding member of several Latinx related organizations including the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Central Ohio, Educators in College Concerned with Moving Hispanics Forward, the Central Ohio Worker Center and most recently, the Columbus Sanctuary Collective (Colectivo Santuario de Columbus). He has served as the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Director of the A World of Difference Institute, a diversity education program and as founding Executive Director of City Year Columbus. Herrera began working on issues of immigrant rights as State Director of Reform Immigration for America, a national organization fighting for comprehensive immigration reform.

He worked in Arizona in 2010 organizing against anti-immigrant legislation SB 1070 and in Georgia fighting HB 87. He has been arrested on separate occasions for civil disobedience fighting for immigrant rights in Georgia, Arizona and Washington D.C. Rubén Castilla Herrera is currently an organizer with the Columbus Sanctuary Collective –Colectivo Santuario de Columbus (CSC) organizing around Sanctuary as Resistance and the #AbolishICE movement. The CSC is a faith based strategy to stop deportations and a unified resistance to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Herrera is a speaker, blogger, and writer. He makes several presentations in Ohio and throughout the region. Herrera lives in Franklinton (The Bottoms) in Columbus, Ohio with his partner Nicholas Pasquarello.

2:30-2.45 Coffee Break

2:45-4:00 Session 4: Migration in the Global Mediterranean (roundtable)

// Moderator: Danielle Schoon (OSU, Lecturer, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures)

Danielle V. Schoon is a cultural anthropologist with expertise in Roma, Turkish, and dance studies. Her current research is on the impacts of Syrian migration to Turkey on urban Roma communities, and the interaction of these groups via Hip Hop music and dance. Danielle is a Lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at OSU, and she also teaches courses in the Sociology and Political Science departments. She is committed to intercultural pedagogy and community engagement.

// Moderator: Harry Kashdan (OSU, Postdoctoral Researcher in the Global Mediterranean)

Harry Kashdan is a postdoctoral fellow in the global Mediterranean at OSU. His PhD is in comparative literature, and his research and teaching are at the intersection of food studies, migration studies, and Mediterranean studies, with attention to Italian, Arabic, and Ladino sources. His current projects examine the literary qualities of contemporary Mediterranean cookbooks.

Marcus Ziemann (OSU, PhD Candidate, Classics Department)

This paper addresses the the rise of a global imaginaire in the empire’s late period.

Marcus is a PhD Candidate in Classics at The Ohio State University. His research has focused on the role that the Neo-Assyrian Empire (10 th c.–609 BCE) played in bringing about a regional globalization of the Mediterranean.

Prof. Hannah Kosstrin (OSU, Professor, Department of Dance)

This paper introduces broad considerations of a global Mediterranean for the aesthetic implications of migration, mobility, and immigration through dance performance.

Dr. Hannah Kosstrin is a dance historian whose work engages dance, Jewish, and gender studies. At The Ohio State University, she is Assistant Professor in the Department of Dance and affiliate faculty with the Melton Center for Jewish Studies and Center for Slavic and East European Studies.

Prof. Richard Fletcher (OSU, Professor, Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy)

 This paper explores the impact and legacy of the recent documenta 14 exhibition, held in Athens and Kassel in 2017. It examines the confluence of the collective and the historical for refugees’ crossings and their containment in camps in a series of moving image works at documenta 14.

Richard Fletcher is an Associate Professor in the Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy at OSU. Trained as a Classicist, his work explores the dynamic between ancient traditions and contemporary art.

Prof. Luca Peretti (OSU, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of French and Italian)

In this paper, he asks: Where is the frontier of Europe? What is accessible and what not in the Mediterranean Sea? Who can circulate freely and who cannot? He approaches these questions drawing from the work of two Italian journalists, Gabriele Del Grande (in particular through his concept of “Fortress Europe”) and the late Alessandro Leogrande, who wrote on the idea of the shifting frontiers. In the second part, he looks at the Mediterranean Sea as a site of conflicts, discussing three different types of subjects in movement (migrants, tourists, and maritime workers) on three different kind of vessels (floating wrecks, cruises, and cargo ships).

Luca Peretti is Visiting Assistant Professor in Contemporary Italian Studies at Ohio State. He works on film history, non-fiction cinema, Jewish Italian culture, and Italian intellectual history.

Eleanor Paynter (OSU, PhD Candidate, Department of Comparative Studies)

In this paper, she links death and potential death in crossing to the limbo experienced by

asylum seekers North and South of the Mediterranean Sea.  She does so by reflecting on oral history interviews with migrants in Italy who spent time in Libya, and on projects that document migrant deaths.

Eleanor Paynter is a PhD Candidate in Comparative Studies and is a co-founder and board member of the Migration Studies Working Group. Her dissertation project, Emergency in Transit, questions the framing of irregular migration as an emergency through oral, written, and filmic testimonial narratives of Mediterranean migration.

4.00-4.30 Closing Reception


A special thanks to our volunteers Erik Scaltritti (PhD Candidate, Department of French and Italian) and Natalia Zotova (PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology), to Moriah Flagler and Be the Street for their involvement in the organization of activities during lunch, and to Paul Kotheimer (ASC Tech) and Sujan Manandhar (Distance Learning and Technology Manager at the Center for Languages, Literatures and Cultures).

Board of the Migration Studies Working Group 2018-2019:

Carolin Mueller (President, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures)

Eleanor Paynter (Treasurer, PhD Candidate, Department of Comparative Studies)

Kelly Yotebieng (Vice-President, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology)

Johanna Sellman (Advisor, Assistant Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures)

Call for Presenters: 2nd Annual OSU Migration Studies Symposium “WALLS AND PASSAGES”

The Migration Studies Working Group invites OSU graduate students and faculty, as well as Columbus-based community organizations and teachers, to send a proposal for a paper, or for a roundtable or interactive workshop, for our second annual Migration Studies Symposium, a full day event on Friday, March 2, 2018. Interventions may directly or indirectly connect to the theme “Walls and Passages”; we are interested in a variety of interpretations of and responses to this phrase. This interdisciplinary symposium will offer a forum for sharing and discussing a range of current work connected with migration experiences and migration studies. In curating this event, we welcome opportunities to collaborate and are especially interested in creating space for conversations that bridge community building, advocacy, teaching, and scholarly work.

Please send your 150-word proposal to by Dec. 31, 2017.

If you would like to volunteer for this event, please get in touch with us at the above email address.

“…there is as much difference between a border, both boundary and passage, and a wall, synonymous with reciprocal enclosure, as between alterity and identity.” – Michel Agier (Borderlands, 2016)


Migration and Health

We invite you to join us Friday Oct 6 1.30-3pm in the Research Commons Room 350A for our next reading discussion on Migration and Health. In this session we will be discussing and critiquing one of our group members, Kelly Yotebieng, recently published agenda paper on urban migration and health – with a focus on asylum seekers and refugees):

 “Health, well-being, and urban refugees and asylum seekers: an agenda paper.”

Health and well-being have been historically uncommon areas of focus in studies of forced migration within the social sciences, where the focus has more often been focused broadly on identity, liminality, and social suffering. Urban refugees have also been largely excluded from the narrative. Yet, urban refugees represent the majority of the worlds refugees, which means we are effectively excluding the majority of the refugee experience from our research. Health is often a central marker of inequality and marginalization. Understanding the entanglement of forced migration to urban areas and health bears enormous potential for policy and practice. The papers we are discussing during this meeting will outline what we know, and set an agenda for the study of urban refugee health. Many of the areas we cover will also bear resonance for others studying different types of migration.

If you are interested in this topic, you might read:

  • Castaneda, H., Holmes, S. M., Madrigal, D. S., Young, M. D., Beyeler, N., & Quesada, J. (2015). Immigration as a Social Determinant of Health. Annual Review of Public Health36, 375–92.
  • Venkataramani, A.S., Shah, S.J., O’Brien, R.; Kawachi, I., & Tsai, A.C. (2017). Health consequences of the US Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration programme: a quasi-experimental study. Lancet Public Health, 2: e175-181.

This event is free and open to all. Refreshments and cookies will be provided. If you plan to join us, please RSVP by Oct 4 by emailing

Symposium 2017

We invite you to join us for the first Migration Studies Symposium at The Ohio State University on April 7th (11.45am-4.30pm), organized by The Migration Studies Working Group. The symposium will be held at 18th Ave Library, Room 070, 175 W 18th Ave, Columbus, OH 43210.