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Many Migrants Can Take Nothing for Granted

Bandana Purkayastha is a professor of sociology and Asian & Asian American Studies, and former head of the Department of Sociology. She is the American Sociological Association’s national representative to the International Sociological Association. Her current research interests focus on human rights/human security, migration, intersectionality, and transnationalism. She recently published an article in the journal Current Sociology focusing on ‘Migration, Migrants, and Human Security.’ She discussed these issues with UConn Today.

Children in a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey. As a growing number of host nations raise concerns about national security, migrants are often denied their basic human rights, says sociology professor Bandana Purkayastha. (Getty Images)

Q. Migration has been in the news with immigration, particularly in the United States, but it has been global as well. Why did you start to look at this issue?
A. While I have worked on migrants and migration for many years, I started looking more specifically at this issue of migrants and human security at the end of 2015. The New York Times had a series of stories on refugees including that very iconic picture of the young Syrian boy who had drowned and washed up on the shores of Turkey. That photograph went around the world. It made me think about my own research, and whether it was capturing all these different kinds of migration together. So I began to think about a continuum of migrants who are subject to transnational, national, and local policies and practices, whose position within these structures affects the conditions of insecurity they encounter during and after they move.

Q. Early on, you talk about the structural impediments to migration that are a key to understanding what is going on. What are those impediments?
A. The structural impediments to moving are most often political, but they include a mix of political, economic, and social impediments. For instance, what kind of rules and policies exist to sort out who can move and under what conditions? A key issue of migration is: do people have the resources to move? Many people don’t. Some people end up moving close by because that’s how far they can get. People may try to move further away; which, depending on where they were in the first place, could mean crossing an international border. After people have moved, there are a whole lot of impediments to their settling down and accessing resources for living. A number of questions arise when we think about human security. Where and how do migrants get their food? Their shelter? What about their health? Their physical safety from violence? Their ability to exercise rights? Are the people in the area where they settle willing to accept them? These questions apply to all migrants, whether or not they were forced to move.

These forced migrants are put into actual camps, detention centers, or camp-like situations. They live in spaces where nothing in life can be taken for granted.

Q. You outline a number of issues with forced migration. What are they?

A. The conditions that affect the forced migrants are basically the same issues that other types of migrants face, of housing, health, safety, food, water, and safety from violence. Forced migrants are fleeing from something. It could be major environmental-related disasters like a tsunami, severe desertification, or some kind of chemical pollution of a river or the land. Or they could be moving to escape wars and conflicts. Some people – mostly young women, girls, and boys – are trafficked to other countries. When they move, the question is: Are they allowed to move freely? If they are anywhere near international boundaries, the answer is: No. They are often repressed and pushed back. People are not willing to accept them. These forced migrants are put into actual camps, detention centers, or camp-like situations. They live in spaces where nothing in life can be taken for granted. In some extreme cases, you’ve had examples of people trying to leave by boat. We’ve certainly seen this outflow from the Middle East and North Africa towards Europe. According to the 2017 UN reports, many of these forced migrants end up in camps in countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. What we’re beginning to see is a pattern of nation states trying to exert their power to repel migrants over the three-mile maritime boundaries that are within the jurisdiction of nation states, as well as the seas beyond that limit.

Q. That is, of course, a political issue too.
A. It is a political issue. We’re seeing a lot more assertiveness for repelling people from reaching the actual land shores of countries. There is also an associated issue of bringing the issues of migrants under more broadly defined criminal justice systems. On the one hand, there’s been a real upsurge in crimes such as smuggling, and trafficking of human beings; these have become profitable industries. On the other hand, we are also seeing problematic ways in which nation states are dealing with these migrants. There have been well publicized news articles about Australia paying smugglers – the same smugglers who are bringing people by boats – to take them back. Smuggling and trafficking are also evident on the land routes. Pakistan happens to be one of the top 10 countries that hosts forced migrants, especially from Afghanistan. Bangladesh and India have now gotten forced migrants from Myanmar. In every country around the world, some people are raising questions about national security. At the same time, the questions about ensuring the human security of these migrants often remain unanswered, or partially answered. So migrants struggle to survive.

Q. You describe what you call the ‘glocal’ terrains: globalization and how it affected local concerns, which includes human rights issues.
A. The term glocal is used to describe how the local and global forces interact with each other. On the one hand, we have all of these conventions about human rights, which are supposed to ensure that every human being, irrespective of political status, has the right to political, civil, social, and economic rights. On the other hand, the reality is whether or not people can access these rights really gets played out on the ground, through everyday encounters with institutions and people. Human rights don’t have enough political teeth if a country is not willing to comply with them; and many countries, to greater or lesser extents, don’t comply. I’m going to use an analogy because I think it illustrates this phenomenon. Prior to and during the civil rights movement [in the U.S.] when the buses were segregated, there were no lines drawn on the bus that said African Americans had to sit here, or there. But that line was actually imposed very strictly by the people on the bus, and this imposition was supported by the state’s institutions. In exactly the same way, if you have a group of people who might theoretically be due all kinds of rights, including the right to food, shelter, safety from violence, and so on, they will not be able to access these rights as long as other people and institutional arrangements make it impossible for them to do so. When we study human rights and mostly examine the laws at the national level, we do not adequately analyze the migrant’s experience on the ground. I think the struggles of forced migrants, more than anybody else, really show us the limits of these rights, when there are inadequate mechanisms to ensure access to these rights.

Q. Many people who talk about immigration think migrants are coming to the United States. But you are looking a fairly unique situations such as the migration of people of Japanese origin from Brazil, forced migration in Pakistan, and people going to South Africa. What would you say about people changing their thinking that this is a global concern?
A. Migration is a global phenomenon. There are many streams of migration going on in different parts of the world. We don’t see it in the local news, so it is not visible to us. According to the most recent UN report, international migration reached 258 million in 2017. Over 60 percent of international migrants, those who are not part of the forced migration stream, live in Asia or Europe. North America is host to the third largest number of international migrants. That said, among the list of countries, the United States is home to the largest number of international migrants. The authors in the special issue of Current Sociology discuss the human security of different types of migrants in a number of countries, including the U.S.

Q. What are your thoughts on how some of these issues can be addressed better?
A. In order to improve the situation, we have to consider political solutions. I think the way the situation can be improved is to humanize, and not dehumanize, the people who are on the move. There is always a genuine concern for national security, and I’m not undermining that. However, we’re in this moment where many people are saying, because there’s a concern for national security, we can dehumanize everyone. Right now we are moving increasingly to the situation that immigration and immigrants and criminal justice and criminal activities are becoming part of the same operation. We need to look, through a human rights perspective, at the fact that a large number of immigrants actually are due their human rights. Some have fled horrible conditions; others come here for work. Are they able to access rights substantively? We are not taking a good, hard look at what happens to them after they arrive. Are we meeting our own aspirations to be a place where human rights principles and practices are honored?

Grad students awarded 2018 Wood/Raith Living Trust summer fellowship

Caner Hazar and Jordan Rees, graduate students from Department of Sociology, were each awarded a 2018 Wood/Raith Living Trust summer fellowship!

The Wood/Raith Living Trust is named for Audrey Wood (UCONN class of ‘47) and Edeltraut Raith. Both Wood and Raith earned their Masters in Library Science from the University of Southern California and spent their careers as librarians with the San Francisco Public Library system. They generously gifted the University of Connecticut funds for the study of gender identity under the Wood/Raith Living Trust. 

This summer Wood/Raith Living Trust started the initiative with graduate fellowships to support work focused on gender identity. We received 38 submissions across 14 programs/departments. The top 12 candidates across 9 departments/programs were offered awards of $4,000 each. The award winners will appear on the website https://woodraithgender.uconn.edu/.

UConn Sociology students making waves internationally

Roseanne Njiru has been awarded a highly competitive 6 months fellowship to the University of Cambridge, UK. This fellowship allows her time to write up her research. She will be located at the Center for African Studies.

 

Farhan Navid Yousaf has invited by the UN to share his expertise on trafficking at a conference in South Korea on victim-centered approaches to trafficking.

He has also been contacted by the US Department of State to contribute to the US-Trafficking in Persons report (country report on Pakistan).

 

 

 

Joonghyun Kwak has accepted a two-year postdoctoral position in the Department of Sociology at Ohio State University.

He will be working with Professors Craig Jenkins and Kazimierz Slomczynki on the “Survey Data Recycling” project which builds theory-informed “big data” for the social sciences. The project involves harmonizing survey and non-survey data sources used in comparative cross-national research and devising methodological tools for analyzing multi-dimensional data structures. The SDR project is funded by the National Science Foundation in collaboration with Ohio State University and the Polish Academy of Sciences.

 

 

Todd Vachon

Todd Vachon has accepted a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Rutgers University in the School of Management and Labor Relations, Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations. Rutgers’ SMLR is a national and international leader in the study of the world of work, building effective and sustainable organizations, and the changing employment relationship.

Andrea Voyer received 2018 Mentorship Excellence Award

In recognition of the pivotal role that mentors play in supporting undergraduate research and creative activity, the Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce the recipents of the 2018 Mentorship Excellence Awards. These awards recognize two faculty members – one in a STEM field, and one in a non-STEM field – and one graduate student who exemplify the ways in which outstanding mentors challenge and support their students, enabling them to take intellectual risks and achieve milestones they might not have initially envisioned being able to reach.

The 2018 Mentorship Excellence Awards were presented to Andrea Voyer, Nicholas Eddy, and Laura Mickelsen during the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition on Friday, April 13, 2018.


Andrea Voyer, Assistant Professor, Sociology
Professor Voyer’s award was presented by Savannah-Nicole Villalba ’18 (CLAS). The following text is excerpted from Savannah-Nicole’s presentation remarks.


I had Dr. Voyer for one of the required classes for our major, social theory. Dr. Voyer gracefully worked us through the dense theories of 19th century sociologists. It was my first time engaging with sociological theory, and many of us were struggling to understand the concepts. Dr. Voyer was patient with us as we tried to make connections to the material. She was encouraging so that we weren’t afraid of being wrong, and was personable in a way that encouraged students to work harder.

This mentality was one that she brought with her when we began the IDEA Grant application process. When we started discussing the possibility of applying, she did not bring me in to work on something she was interested in. In our first meeting, she asked me what I was passionate about and I could tell she genuinely cared. Dr. Voyer was the first person to believe in my passions and to tell me that my research questions were valid. We spent months working on the application process, and when the grant was approved, I knew it would not have been possible without her guidance.

With her own incredible research and personal life, she has always been accessible to discuss the newest challenge I faced. Instead of just providing answers, she would offer suggestions on ways to problem solve to reach reasonable solutions. Even though Dr. Voyer has been away this school year, she has helped me apply (and be accepted) to graduate school, supported (and protected) me at my first research conference, and has shown me what an academic mentor should be.

Sociology students elected to Phi Beta Kappa honors society

The following students in Sociology have been elected to Phi Beta Kappa this year. Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest and most widely recognized honors society, celebrating achievement in the liberal arts and sciences.

  • Bouley, Kylie Haggerty
  • Chittibabu, Akshayaa
  • Djunaedi, Syifa Rahmadianputri
  • Ewry, Amanda
  • O’Neil, Meghan Ruth
  • Rajahraman, Vinaya
  • Takeda, Jun Kristina
  • Veeraraghav, Anand Vydianathan

 

Joseline awarded the 2018 “Undergraduate Social Action Award”

Joseline Tlacomulco (middle), from Ruth Hernandez’s class (right) on “Introduction to Latin America and the Caribbean,” was awarded the 2018 “Undergraduate Social Action Award” by Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS), a national nonprofit professional organization dedicated to efforts related to feminist action, including promoting social justice through local, national, and international activism. This recognition is awarded to a student making a substantial contribution to improving the lives of women in society through their activism. At the award reception held in Atlanta, Georgia, Joseline gave a moving speech that was met with a standing ovation and her recognition was referred to as the “highlight of the event.”

Joseline’s personal experience as a baby carried across borders and deserts inspired her to become involved in immigration issues which affect her livelihood as an undocumented woman of color. In her personal essay Joseline wrote, “many times I felt I was the only undocumented student on campus. I didn’t know anyone at UConn who was undocumented, making it hard for me to trust those in my social environment. It was through this difficult experience that my own identity as an undocumented student pushed me to realize the lack of resources for undocumented students. Then, there were no scholarships offered by the university for undocumented students, the schools website did not include any information about matriculating as an undocumented student, and finally, there were no steps or an action plan to fix these institutional issues. I asked myself, how could a leading institution and New England’s ‘flagship university’ have zero resources to help their undocumented students?”

To address these and other issues Joseline became a community organizer for Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D) and her work has significantly improved the lives of undocumented students at UConn. To enact social change Joseline leads workshops for faculty and staff concerning undocumented student populations, works with administration on various protocols, and facilitates legal aid services for undocumented students. Her efforts have amounted to protocols and transparent resources for undocumented students such as a web page on the financial aid website. The testimonial from Eleanor JB Daugherty, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students stated, “Joseline’s work for CT Students for A Dream is deeply compelling and has motivated University leaders such as myself to come forward and seek changes that would enable undocumented students to have a safe, accessible, and affordable college experience.”

Following the presidential inauguration of 2016, Joseline spearheaded efforts that facilitated open and much needed discussions about how immigration reform and other laws would affect UConn students. Following a campus-wide march, Joseline attended meetings to ensure that undocumented students would be safe at UConn. These efforts resulted in UConn examining its policies and protocols for the protection of undocumented students.

In addition to her grassroots work, Joseline is committed to student growth and is a frequent guest lecturer for many departments. Joseline’s lectures are complex and critical, and she offers students the opportunity to think through issues of diversity, as well as access to resources. Through her work, Joseline has become a mentor to many undergraduate students, such as Malachi Bridges who wrote the following testimony: “Joseline is an activist that is always willing to learn, work, help and teach. Among all these roles, she allocates the same 110% effort.” Another student, Laura Bedoya stated, “I admire Joseline’s fearlessness and ability to advocate for herself and many others. She inspires me stand firm in my beliefs.” It is clear that Joseline is a gifted speaker and is able to use her lived experiences to communicate issues often left out of curriculum about the diverse problems students of color at our university face today.

UConn student received the 2018 “Best Undergraduate Poster Award”

UConn Sociology students, Savannah-Nicole Villalba (left) and Caroline Brooks (right) presented their research at the 2018 Eastern Sociological Society’s Annual Conference in Baltimore.  Savannah-Nicole Villalba’s research, titled “A Healthy Food Inventory of Waterbury, CT” received the Best Undergraduate Poster Award.  This distinction was given to seven out of 170 posters.  Savannah-Nicole’s project was funded by the UConn IDEA Grant and the UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship Program.  The title of Caroline Brooks’ project is “A Cross Sectional Time Series Analysis on the Impacts of Race on Homeownership.”

 

Bandana Purkayastha was awarded the 2017 Fulbright Nehru Award

Dr. Bandana Purkayastha was awarded the 2017 Fulbright Nehru Award until July 2017. She is working on her project “Water, Inequalities, and Rights.”

While completing her Fulbright Nehru research, Dr. Bandana Purkayastha was invited to
organize and present a number of talks: Bandana was the plenary speaker for the representatives of the
national sociological associations as the ASA-ISA representative for the session “Whose Voice? Whose Silence? Reflections on the Structures of Contemporary Worlds” at the Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan. On June 14th, she was invited to speak in Hong Kong about “Contemporary Global Challenges through a Transnational Feminist Lens.”

Read more about her work in our 2017 newsletter.

Associate Dean Glasberg to Serve as Interim Dean of CLAS

Davita Silfen Glasberg, current CLAS Associate Dean for Social Sciences and Undergraduate Education, will serve as interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences beginning February 1, 2017, when Dean Jeremy Teitelbaum will step down to become the University’s interim Provost.

Glasberg has served as an associate dean of the College since 2011. Prior to that, she was head of the CLAS Department of Sociology from 2004 to 2011.

Throughout her long period of administrative service to the College, she has continued her active research program. Her co-edited volume, Human Rights in our Own Back Yard: Injustice and Resistance in the United States (2011) won the Hirabayashi Book Award for Best Book from the Human Rights Section of the American Sociological Association in 2012. Glasberg co-edited the book with former graduate student William T. Armaline ’97 Ph.D., currently a professor at San Jose State University, and Bandana Purkayastha, professor of sociology at UConn.

Glasberg has also continued to teach her Introduction to Sociology general education class, and has overseen multiple projects to improve the caliber of the undergraduate educational experience in UConn’s largest college.

Glasberg joined UConn in 1988 as an assistant professor. Her research interests are political sociology and political economy; human rights; race, class and gender; and social inequality.

She earned her BA cum laude and a master’s degree in sociology from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in sociology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

“We have great confidence in her and know that she will bring strong academic values and excellent judgment to the leadership of the College,” said UConn President Susan Herbst in a statement. “Please join us in congratulating Professor Glasberg on this new position and in wishing her well.”

UConn Named a Top Producer of Fulbright Scholars

The University of Connecticut is among the top 10 producers of Fulbright Scholars from research institutions this year.

The University has seven Fulbright Scholars on its faculty who will be teaching and performing research around the world in the 2016-17 academic year, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The Fulbright Program is the government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Scholars are selected for their academic merit and leadership potential, with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program operates in more than 125 countries. The following UConn faculty will be pursuing Fulbright projects abroad:

  • Carol Auer, professor emeritus of plant science and landscape architecture, will lecture and perform research into “Advancing Biosecurity and Bioethics Knowledge in Ecuador” at the University of San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador.
  • Alexis Dudden, professor of history, will lecture about “East Asian Context for Maritime Issues and the U.S.-Korea Alliance” at Yonsei University in South Korea.
  • Kathryn Knapp, associate professor of English, will lecture about “The Contemporary American Bildungsroman in the Age of Decline” at Vilnius University in Lithuania.
  • Engineering Professor Radenka Maric, UConn’s new vice president for research, will research “Durable Cathodes for High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC) and Hydrogen Separ” at Politenico Di Milano in Italy.
  • Bandana Purkayastha, professor of sociology, will lecture and perform research on “Water, Inequalities, and Rights” at University of Hyderabad in India.
  • Nathaniel Trumbull, associate professor of geography, will lecture and perform research on “Best Practices of Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Plants in Russia and the U.S.: Regional, Social and Economic Dimensions” at Saint Petersburg State Polytechnical University in Russia.
  • Steven Wisensale, professor of public policy, will lecture on “A Comparative Analysis of Japanese-U.S. Policies” at Yokohama City University in Japan.

The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation by the United States Congress to the Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and the U.S. also provide direct and indirect support.

By: Kristen Cole | Story courtesy of UConn Today