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Bandana Purkayastha Awards and Honors

Bandana Purkayastha is Professor of Sociology and Asian & Asian American Studies. She served as Head, Sociology, at the University of Connecticut (UCONN) from 2011-2016 Leadership. Her current research interests focus on human rights/human security, migration and migrants, intersectionality, and violence. Her earlier research on ethnicity, racism, gender, violence and peace has been published in many countries.

Bandana Purkayastha was awarded the 2018 Sociologists for Women in Society’s Feminist Mentoring award. The mentoring award was established in 1990 to honor an SWS member who is an outstanding feminist mentor. In establishing the award, SWS recognized that feminist mentoring is an important and concrete way to encourage feminist scholarship.

In 2019 Professor Purkayastha was awarded The biennial Research Excellence Award. UCONN College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Research awards recognize national and international prominence in research. The recipients of Excellence in Research awards are honored for a research program that has gained national and international distinction and impact in their field of study. For more please see https://clas.uconn.edu/faculty-staff/excellence-awards/

Bandana Purkayastha is also a member of the International Sociological Association, Executive Committee. International Sociological Association is an organization of sociologists with members from 126 countries.  Bandana Purkayastha was elected to the 16 person executive committee which oversees the general operations of the organization along with the officers. 

 

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?

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.

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