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Throughout U.S. history, immigration has played a central role in enriching the country's development, yet migrants have repeatedly faced discrimination and controversy over their presence. Forced removal of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands and of enslaved Africans from their homelands to the Americas has cast a long shadow over U.S. history. These stories form part of a global narrative in which migration has been a constant, often fraught component of human history. The Hall Center for the Humanities' 2020-2021 speaker series, MIGRATION STORIES, features a range of humanities scholars and writers whose work on immigration, especially the stories of those whose lives have included migration, highlights the continued significance and relevance of the humanities to our contemporary world.

This speaker series is co-sponsored by the KU Center for Migration Research.

This series will take place entirely online, via the Hall Center Crowdcast page, which you can find HERE.

Spring 2021

April 7, 2021: Lual Mayen

"From Refugee to Game Developer: Peacemaking through the Art of Gaming"

This online event will be presented via the Hall Center Crowdcast page, HERE.

Lual Mayen is the founder of Junub Games. For 22 of his 24 years of life, Mayen lived in a refugee camp in northern Uganda. A few years back, Mayen saw a laptop computer at a registration station for the refugee camp. He told his mother he wanted one. She saved money for three years to get the $300 to buy it for him. He discovered Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and the joy of playing at an internet cafe. He regularly walked three hours to get to the internet cafe to charge his computer and play games.

As a child born in a violent war, Mayen thought about how to create a game that could inspire peace. He taught himself to make games and formed his own company, Junub Games. Based on the realization that games can be helpful for peace and conflict resolution, he began developing a video game for his people that might divert their minds from destructive activities. His first game, Salaam (an Arabic word that means 'peace'), is about protecting communities from being destroyed. It was a 10-megabit mobile game, but he could only distribute it via Bluetooth networking. It spread in a viral way. An organizer at A Maze discovered it, tracked him down, and asked him to speak at a conference on games in South Africa. Last year, Mayen appeared at The Game Awards, where he was named a Global Gaming Citizen in conjunction with an award sponsored by Facebook. (27 million people watched that show.) Mayen is currently working with Facebook to publish Salaam as an Instant Game.

Coming to the Heartland

MON APR 19, 7:30 PM

via Zoom, please register HERE if you would like to attend.

Although Latinx and African populations in the Heartland do not constitute part of the mainstream narrative about immigrants in America, the state of Kansas and the wider region have experienced demographic changes common throughout the United States. A collaborative research team at KU is working with local Latinx and African communities across Kansas and the Kansas City metro region to create a multi-media forum for sharing across generations the stories of Latin American and African migration to the Heartland. Using story-telling methods most comfortable for each generation, this project positions generational narratives and methods of story-telling in conversation with each other.

The project team includes Elizabeth MacGonagle (Associate Professor of History and of African and African American Studies and Director of the Kansas African Studies Center), Marta Caminero-Santangelo (Professor of English and Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies), Abel Chikanda (Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies and of Geography and Atmospheric Science), Meg Jamieson (Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies), Brian Rosenblum (Librarian for Digital Scholarship, KU Libraries, and Co-Director of the Institute for Digital research in the Humanities), Hannah Britton (Professor of Political Science and of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies), and Sylvia Fernandez (Public and Digital Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hall Center for the Humanities).

Previous Events in this Series

An Evening with Juan Felipe Herrera

WED SEP 16, 7:30 PM

This online event was presented via the Hall Center Crowdcast page, HERE.

In 2015, Juan Felipe Herrera was appointed the 21st United States Poet Laureate, the first Mexican American to hold the position. In his statement announcing this choice, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said that Herrara’s poems “champion voices, traditions and histories, as well as a cultural perspective” that serve to illuminate our larger American identity. Herrera grew up in California as the son to migrant farmers, which, he has commented, strongly shaped much of his work. A Washington Post article recounts that “As a child, Herrera learned to love poetry by singing about the Mexican Revolution with his mother, a migrant farmworker in California. Inspired by her spirit, he has spent his life crossing borders, erasing boundaries and expanding the American chorus.”

Herrera is the author of thirty books, including collections of poetry, prose, short stories, young adult novels and picture books for children. His collections of poetry include Every Day We Get More Illegal (2020); Notes of the Assemblage (2015); Senegal Taxi (2013); Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (2008), a recipient of the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award; 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross The Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 (2007); and Crashboomlove: A Novel in Verse (1999), which received the Americas Award. In 2014, he released the nonfiction work Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes, which showcases twenty Hispanic and Latino American men and women who have made outstanding contributions to the arts, politics, science, humanitarianism, and athletics. His book Jabberwalking (2018) is a children’s book focused on turning your wonder at the world around you into weird, wild, incandescent poetry.

“The fire that appears again and again in Herrera’s poetry exists to illuminate, to make beautiful, to purify.” —New York Times Book Review

Erika Lee: America for Americans

THU OCT 22, 7:30 PM

This online event was presented via the Hall Center Crowdcast page, HERE.

Erika Lee will join us to talk about her latest book, America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States (2019). One of the nation’s leading immigration and Asian American historians, Erika Lee teaches American history at the University of Minnesota, where she is a Regents Professor, a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History, and the Director of the Immigration History Research Center. The granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, Lee grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, attended Tufts University, and received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Lee is the author of four award-winning books in U.S. immigration and Asian American history: At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 (2003), Angel island: Immigrant Gateway to America (co-authored with Judy Yung, 2010), and The Making of Asian-America (2015). As director of the Immigration History Research Center, Lee has worked to merge immigration history with the digital humanities. She launched and oversees the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded ‘Immigrant Stories Project,’ which works with recent immigrants and refugees to collect, preserve, and share their experiences through a new multi-lingual digital story-telling website and collection. She also founded and co-organized the #ImmigrationSyllabus, a digital educational resource offering historical perspectives on contemporary immigration debates.

March 3, 2021: Donna Gabaccia

This online event was presented via the Hall Center Crowdcast page, HERE.

Donna Gabaccia is the author of 14 books and dozens of articles on immigrant class, gender and food studies in the United States, on Italian migration around the world, and on global and transnational approaches to the historical study of migration. Her 2015 book Gender and International Migration: From the Slavery Era to the Global Age, co-authored with sociologist and demographer Katharine Donato, was awarded an Honourable Mention from the American Sociological Association’s Znaniecki Prize.  Her previous book, Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective, won the 2012 Theodore Saloutos Prize of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society. In 2013, the University of Minnesota recognized her public history work with an Outstanding Community Service Award for Faculty; the 2012 Society of American Archivists, Hamer-Kegan Award for the Immigration History Research Center Project, “Digitizing Immigrant Letters.” In 2008-2009, she was President of the Social Science History Association, North America’s pre-eminent interdisciplinary professional association for historical social scientists and social-theory oriented historians. She is currently President and Chair of the Executive Board of the Toronto Ward Museum. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in History, Women’s Studies and Food Studies, focusing on migration, gender and diasporas in world history, digital history, and gender in the kitchen.


March 25, 2021: Denise Brennan

Whose Exploitation Counts? Trafficking Survivors As Exceptions in An Era of Mass Deportation

This online event will presented via the Hall Center Crowdcast page, HERE.

Denise Brennan is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Georgetown University, and Faculty Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Gender+ Justice Initiative. Brennan’s scholarship focuses on trafficking, sex work, policing, migration, and women’s labor.

Brennan’s most recent book follows the lives of the first survivors of trafficking to the United States. Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States (2014) examines the connection between undocumented status and exploitation. It documents how individuals who endured severe abuse rebuild their lives, counters panics over the sex sector, and argues that policies that detain and deport undocumented people undermine efforts to prevent trafficking and find trafficked people. Brennan is also the author of What's Love Got to Do with It? Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic (2004), which explores how Dominican women strategically use the sex sector to meet tourists, feign love, and legally migrate off the island through marriage. She is currently working on a new updated edition of this book. Living in an anti-trafficking era means that anyone profiled as selling or buying sex risk police crack-downs. This research with women who choose to sell sex, and keep all their earnings without interference from any intermediaries, stands as a powerful critique of the conflation of all sex work as trafficking.

Brennan’s current book project, Undocumented: Criminalizing Everyday Life in the United States, explores how 11 million undocumented individuals who are left out of any current immigration protections live everyday with the threat of deportation. It examines how they navigate state surveillance through racial profiling and manage the violent possibility of being forcibly removed from their family with the banal tasks of their daily lives. The book draws from field research inside the "100-Mile Border Zone" (an enhanced immigration enforcement zone) along both the southern and northern borders, as well as in migrant communities in the U.S. interior. In this way, the book calls attention to how “border policing” happens far from the actual border.

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