Migration: Points of Entry, Points of Departure

Migration: Points of Entry, Points of Departure

Bios and Abstracts


Cheikh Anta Babou is a historian of Islam and the modern West African Muslim diaspora. He joined the history department of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 2002. Educated at University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar and Michigan State University, Dr. Babou is the author of Fighting the Greater Jihad: Amadu Bambaand the Founding of the Muridiyya of Senegal, 1853–2013 (Ohio University Press, 2007). A French translation of the book was released by Karthala under the title Le Jihad de l’Amein 2011. His latest book, The Muridiyya on the Move: Islam, Migration, and Place Making (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2021), is a multi-sited project that explores strategies of place making among West African Muslim immigrants in Paris, New York City, and selected cities in west and central Africa. Dr. Babou is the author of numerous articles that have appeared in African Affairs, Journal of African History, International Journal of African Historical Studies, Journal of Religion in Africa, Africa Today,and other scholarly journals in the United States and in France. He has contributed chapters to five edited volumes on Sufi Islam, migration, Islamic Education, Senegalese politics and the African diaspora. Babou has presented papers in international scholarly meetings on Islam and the transnational migration of West African Muslims across North America and Europe. He was an editor of the Journal of African History from 2010 to 2015.

Murid Making Space in New York City: The Celebration of Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba Day
Diasporic Murids are located simultaneously abroad and at home. This double embeddedness is made possible by their ability, wherever they reside, to turn their living space into a place to express their faith and identity. Murid disciples in New York use a variety of instruments to etch their culture on the city’s space. Their efforts to produce religiously meaningful places take different forms. It involves the physical occupation of space and the creation of Murid place by infusing New York’s landscape with cultural and religious meanings. The production of Murid place is achieved through activities such as processions, lectures, the chanting of religious songs, the sharing of food, and the telling of sacred narratives. In this paper, Babou explores one Murid space making initiative, the celebration of Ahmadu Bamba Day held in Harlem every July 28th.

Susan Thomas (she/her/hers) Susan Thomas is Assistant Professor of Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University. Thomas was trained as an anthropologist of education, receiving her PhD from the Education, Culture, and Society program at University of Pennsylvania. Her research, teaching, and publications have focused on questions related to migration studies, South Asian diasporas/transnationality, critical university studies, global education, and the articulations of race and caste politics. Her current book project focuses on the transnational paths of middle-class student-migrants from India as they encounter the "internationalizing" university in the United States. In this book, Thomas traces how the collusions of the educational institution, the state, and the capitalist market inform a logic of indebtedness that comes to shape the place-making practices of these young people. The book illuminates not only how students’ movements across national borders are an invaluable part of the neoliberalization of education, but also how the formation of indebted subjectivities is essential to this project.  

Indian Student-Migrants and the Indebted Imaginaries of Diasporic Worlds
Student-migrants are rarely constructed as diasporic subjects, partly due to the assumptions of transience tied to their movement across national borders. Yet, their liminal positioning offers meaningful lines of inquiry regarding the making of diasporas. Drawing on her work on the migratory lives of Indian youth pursuing higher education in the United States, Thomas raises questions about Indian diasporic formation that emerge when the student-migrant is recuperated as a diasporic figure. The talk points to how student migration from India to the US has always been entangled in the nexus of the postcolonial project of India and the settler-colonial and imperialist project of the United States. By considering how this entanglement is articulated within contemporary conditions wrought by the "internationalizing" university, the talk pays particular attention to the pertinence of a logics of indebtedness, which, Thomas contends, must be part of any discussion of (settler) migration and diasporic imaginaries. 

Tukufu Zuberi is the Lasry Family Professor of Race Relations, and Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been a visiting Professor at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG) in Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil, the Universidade de Brasilia (UnB) in Brasilia, Brazil, and the Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBa). He was the founding Director of the Center for Africana Studies (2002–2008). Dr. Zuberi is the author of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot: The Mortality Cost of Colonizing Liberia in the Nineteenth-Century (1995); Thicker than Blood: How Racial Statistics Lie (2001); Más espeso que la sangre: la mentira del análisis estadístico según teorías biológicas de la raza (2013); African Independence: How Africa Shapes the World (2015); and Independência Africana: Como a África Contemporânea redefiniu o mundo in (2021). His book: White Logic, White Methods: Racism and Methodology (with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva) was awarded the Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award by the American Sociological Association. From 2003 to 2014, Dr. Zuberi was a host of the hit Public Broadcasting System (PBS) series History Detectives. He has directed numerous documentaries, including African Independence, Before Things Fell Apart, Decolonizing the Narrative, and a ten-part web series Decolonizing the Conversation. He has also curated several exhibitions.

The Last Demographic Racial Transition
Professor Zuberi presents a demographic history of racial stratification for the past 500 years, addressing how humans were turned into races and the effect of these processes of racialization on demographic transitions. He notes that the transformation of the human population along racial lines has been a process of dividing the population into first- and second-class humans (into the subordinated and superordinate groups). Zuberi also seeks to address how systems of race unfold differently in different parts of the world over time.


Navine Murshid is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Colgate University. She received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Rochester in 2010. Her research is concerned with the politics of migration and refugees in the South Asian context. Her book The Politics of Refugees in South Asia: Identity, Resistance, Manipulation was published in 2013. Her current work is focused on the Rohingya refugee crisis and its impact on the developing nation of Bangladesh.

The Rohingya and Bangladesh's Geopolitics
In 2017, 700,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh following a genocide in Myanmar. In this talk, Murshid discusses the political economy underlying both the targeting of the Rohingya in Myanmar and hosting them in Bangladesh, amid rapid NGOization in Cox's Bazar for their protection. In doing so, she will highlight the limitations of the regime of refugee rights as enshrined in international institutions and the problems of forcing countries to host refugees without durable solutions in plac

Eleanor Paynter studies displacement, asylum, and migrant testimony, focusing on Africa-Europe mobilities and the Black Mediterranean. Her current book project, Emergency in Transit, draws on oral, written, filmic, and visual witnessing forms to discuss the complex dynamics shaping Italy’s emergency responses to migration. Her research is available or forthcoming in journals including a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, the Journal for Immigrant and Refugee Studies, and Contexts, and in public venues such as the LA Review of Books and the Globe Post. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Studies from the Ohio State University and is currently a postdoctoral associate with Cornell University’s Migrations Initiative and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, where she also hosts the podcast Migrations: A World on the Move

Crisis and the (Un)making of Refugees 
Since 2014, Italian border governance strategies have produced a set of situations that appear, at least initially, paradoxical: under the guise of crisis management, as Italian authorities refuse to admit rescue ships, some migrants are held captive at sea, unable to enter. At the same time, following increased asylum rejection rates, a growing undocumented population is held captive within the country, unable to leave. In this context, what does it mean to be (or be recognized as) a refugee? In this talk, drawing on cultural texts and ethnographic research she conducted in four Italian regions, Paynter discusses how emergency responses to migration call this category into question, and considers several strategies that people in transit employ to exercise their rights and claim belonging beyond crisis framings.

Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi (she/her) is an assistant professor at Barnard College, Columbia University, specializing in architectural histories centering African and South Asian questions. Her book manuscript Architecture of Migration: The Dadaab Refugee Camps and Humanitarian Settlement (Duke University Press, 2023) analyzes the architectural history, visual rhetoric, and spatial politics of the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. Her book manuscript Minnette de Silva and a Modern Architecture of the Past studies the career of one of the first women to establish a professional architectural practice, in Ceylon/Sri Lanka. Siddiqi is the author of numerous articles, editor of Architecture as a Form of Knowledge, and co-editor of Feminist Architectural Histories of Migration and Spatial Violence. She directs the Columbia University Center for the Study of Social Difference working group Insurgent Domesticities, co-chairs the Columbia University Seminar Studies in Contemporary Africa, and convened collaborative web/podcasts on Caregiving as Method (Society of Architectural Historians) and Building Solidarities: Racial Justice in the Built Environment (Barnard College/Columbia University Institute for Comparative Literature and Society).

Emergency Domesticity as a Form of Knowledge
The conceptual and material unit of shelter has been closely identified with modern architectures of emergency relief. As yet undertheorized are the ways that it has enacted domesticity, and how that domesticity has formed a basis for knowledge. In this talk, Siddiqi examines an architecture that does not merely resolve in the state constructs used to delimit migration, such as camps or shelters, but, rather, one that undergirds migratory domesticities and ways of life. By examining refugee shelters and camps in the permanently ephemeral built environment at Dadaab, Kenya, administered by the UNHCR, Siddiqi considers the slow and sudden processes of humanitarian settlement through the lens of emergency domesticity. From this expanded perspective, they analyze shelter and settlement in Dadaab as a historically precise means to arrive at a theory of emergency domesticity not only as a social matter, but as an epistemic construct, a form of knowledge.


Michael Jones-Correa is the President’s Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Chair of the Department of Political Science, and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Immigration (CSERI) at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a co-principal investigator of the 2006 Latino National Survey, the 2012 and 2016 Latino Immigrant National Election Study (LINES), and of research on immigrant/native-born contract, trust and civic engagement in Philadelphia and Atlanta, among other research. He has worked and published extensively on immigrant political mobilization, inter-group relations, and the integration of immigrants into receiving societies. Recent publications include Holding Fast: Resilience and Civic Engagement among Latino Immigrants (Russell Sage, 2020), Outsiders No More? Models of Immigrant Political Incorporation (Oxford University Press, 2013), Latinos in the New Millennium (Cambridge, 2012) and Latino Lives in America: Making It Home (Temple University Press, 2010).

Joceline Natali Perez Hernandez is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Philosophy with a minor in French. She was born in Guadalajara, MX but grew up in Richmond, California. She is passionate about immigrant rights and providing resources to undocumented/DACA students on Penn’s campus.

Grace L. Sanders Johnson is a historian, visual artist, and assistant professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her areas of study include modern Caribbean history, transnational feminisms, oral history, and environmental humanities. Sanders Johnson has been awarded fellowships from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, the Andrew C. Mellon and Ford Foundations, and received the Canadian Embassy Scholars Award, the Haitian Studies Association Emerging Scholar Fellowship, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship. She was most recently a 2020–2021 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Scholars-in-Residence Fellow. Sanders Johnson has worked with various archival projects including Concordia University’s Oral History Project Histoire de Vie (Montreal 2011) and has produced the art-archive installation Nou Pa Bliye: Haitian Feminist Expressions and Translations (2014). Her most recent work can be found in several journals and books including the American Anthropologist (2022), Caribbean Review of Gender Studies (2018), Caribbean Military Encounters (2017), and Sisters or Strangers? Immigrant, Ethnic, and Racialized Women in Canadian History (2016). She is currently completing her first book, White Gloves, Black Nation: Gender, Citizenship and Political Wayfaring in Haiti (under contract with University of North Carolina Press).

Mohan Seshadri (he/they) is the Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance. They are also currently serving as the co-chair of the Asian American Power Network. Previously, Mohan managed electoral and organizing programs for Planned Parenthood across Central and Eastern Pennsylvania. From 2019–2020, they served as the Executive Director of the Governor’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. They co-founded multiple community organizing programs across Pennsylvania including the Philadelphia chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Lehigh Valley chapter of DSA, and the AAPI PA Power Caucus.


Kukuli Velarde is a Peruvian artist based in the United States since 1987. She has received awards and grants such as the Guggenheim Fellowship (NewYork, 2015), the Pollock Krasner Foundation grant (New York, 2012), the United States Artists-Knight fellowship (California, 2009), the Pew fellowship in Visual Arts (Pennsylvania, 2003), the Anonymous is a Woman award (New York, 2000), and the Joan Mitchell Foundation grant (New York, 1997), among others. In 2013, her project Corpus got the Grand Prize at the Gyeonggi Ceramics Biennial in South Korea. Her exhibition credits include: Corpus at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (Colorado, 2022), Kukuli Velarde: The Complicit Eye at Taller (Philadelphia, 2018-19); Kukuli Velarde at AMOCA (Los Angeles 2017); Plunder Me, Baby at the Yenggi Museum of Ceramics’ Biennial of Taipei (Taiwan, 2014); Corpus (work in progress) at the Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennial (South Korea, 2013); also Kukuli Velarde: Plunder Me, Baby at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in (Kansas City, 2013), Patrimonio at Barry Friedman Gallery (New York, 2010) and Plunder Me, Baby at Garth Clark Gallery (New York, 2007). She is married to sculptor Doug Herren, and they have a daughter named Vida. They live in Philadelphia, PA, USA.

Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw is the Class of 1940 Bicentennial Term Associate Professor of History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania and affiliated faculty in Latin American and Latino Studies, Cinema Studies, and Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. She has occupied the position of Senior Historian at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, serving as the Director of Research, Publications, and Scholarly Programs for the gallery. Dr. Shaw received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and was an Assistant Professor at Harvard for five years before coming to the University of Pennsylvania in 2005. In the past decade she has helped mount exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania, and Penn's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. She has also partnered with numerous institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Barnes Foundation, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, and the St. Louis Art Museum, to develop and implement numerous exhibitions, public programs, and other scholarly events.

Claes Gabriel, Boat People, 2020, acrylic on canvas