English 6780 Topics in English Education, Fall 2022
Teaching the Literature of Migrants and Refugees
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
-- Robert Frost
Like animals and plants, people have always migrated. Human migration has been forced by changing ecosystems, economic necessity, and by invasion, enslavement, and conflict. Today, globalization, warfare, and climate change are accelerating displacement on an unprecedented, planetary scale. There are more refugees, migrants, and displaced persons in the world now than ever in human history -- and numbers will dramatically increase, likely in the billions, as climate further deteriorates.
In an atmosphere of anxiety and fear, refugees and migrants are being perceived as a threat that might compromise lifestyle, and used to foster nativism, racism, and “replacement theory.” A May 2022 poll by the Associated Press found that one-third of American adults believed that an effort was underway "to replace native-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains." Many first world governments have taken extreme measures to stop migrants and refugees from reaching their soil.
Refugees as a “problem” fails to consider the histories of immigration, colonialism, racism, economic inequality, who and how refugees are defined, what can be learned from migrants and the contributions they make, how we can transform systems of violence that foster displacement, the role and responsibility of governments in creating and failing to address conditions that require migration, and moral, ethical, and political issues of responsibility and solidarity.
The experience of migration often involves hardship, loss, personal and social challenges, entering liminal spaces, cultural, and linguistic transitions. It raises questions about identity, community, indigeneity, and relationships between generations.
The literature of migration also brings up issues of rights, justice, borders, climate change, militarism, and the challenges of making life in new contexts. This literature also raises questions about the construction of school knowledge and how and why we teach literature. This seminar will explore these questions, foster critical and creative thinking, develop strategies for teaching and research, and include input and involvement from and with local organizations.
We will draw on the power of the literature to understand others, imagine possible futures, and make a difference. Students will experience and develop teaching formed by thematic instruction, cultural studies, inquiry and critical theory, student choice and self-evaluation, service learning and active citizenship education.
The seminar welcomes and will be relevant to graduate students in English in literature, creative writing, writing studies, and English education.
As the semester unfolds the topic of migration will certainly be in the news. Students in this class are expected to read from a variety of news sources and are invited to bring issues to our class for discussion. WMU provides a free NYT subscription. The Guardian is also a good news source, and can also be accessed for free.
WMU Land Acknowledgement: "Land acknowledgment is a process by which individuals are prompted to consider the history of the space they currently inhabit. We would like to recognize that Western Michigan University is located on lands historically occupied by the Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodewadmi nations. Please take a moment to acknowledge and honor this ancestral land of the Three Fires Confederacy, the sacred lands of all Indigenous peoples and their continued presence."
Since the seminar is discussion-based, attendance and preparation are essential to your own learning and to the learning of your classmates. Missing more than two weeks of the seminar will lower your grade and missing 3 or more may lead to failing. Study my philosophy regarding discussion, preparation, participation, attendance, grading, and learning -- and consider your own philosophy!
Your final course grade will be an average of grades for the major assignments,
listed and weighted below. At the hour scheduled for the final exam students
will present their final project.
My office is 723 Sprau Tower, 387-2605. Office hours are after class and by appointment. You can always reach me via email.
Reading / Viewing
Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits (2005), by Laila Lalami
Human Flow (2017), film directed by Al Weiwei
Exit West (2017), by Mohsin Hamid
Tell Me How It Ends (2017), by Valeria Luiselli.
Borderlands: La Frontera (1987), Gloria Anzaldua
Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security (2017), Todd Miller
Sleep Dealer (2008), film directed by Alex Rivera
Parable of the Sower (1993), by Octavia Butler
Water Knife (2015), by Paulo Bacigalupi
Additional student selected reading on Mexican-American border
Braiding Sweetgrass (2013), by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (2011), by Christian Parenti
Migrant Futures (2018), by Aimee Bahng
The Immigration Crisis in Europe and the U.S.-Mexico Border (2021), by Victoria Carty
Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency (2020), by Mark Lynas
And more, see syllabus below.
1) Understanding Your Ancestors: Literary Analysis, Essay, Research Paper, or Creative Response, Due: 9/21 (20%)
2) Teaching Plan on the Mexican/American Border, Due: 11/2 (20%)
3) Climate Impacts: Literary Analysis, Essay, Research Paper, or Creative Response, Due 11/30 (20%)
4) Envision a Course, Due: 12/14 (20%)
5) Community Involvement Project, Report Due: 12/14 (20%)
Aug 31: Introductions
Discussion of literary studies, national traditions, borders, & migration
"Origins of World Literature," rise of capitalism from the Manifesto
Examine media representations: Fox News, immigrants, refugees, borders; Immigrants, White Supremacy, Alt-Right (ADL, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch, Brennan Center, House Committee); Europe and Immigrants, EU policy w Turkey and Libya; Britain First, AfD Germany, Euroskepticism; Refugee and Detention Camps world-wide; Immigrants & political campaigns; Islamophobia; Remain in Mexico Policy; Migration and Climate Change; Ukrainian refugees vs refugees from Africa, Asia, or Middle East.
Sep 7: Your Connection to Migration
1. Read carefully through the entire on-line syllabus. Bring any questions about the syllabus and assignments to class.
2. Join our class phone message system, Remind. If you have a smartphone go to this page in your web browser and follow instructions: rmd.at/f6eb9b8. If you don't have a smart phone text "@f6eb9b8" to this number "f6eb9b8". If you don't have a cell phone go to rmd.at/f6eb9b8 and sign up for email notification.
3. Read: A novel or memoir or collection of short stories or poetry or an historical study about immigrants that, in some way, could be seen to connect to your own family or experience. Prepare to present what you learn to the class.
4. Research recent articles/websites addressing nativism, ultra-nationalism, replacement theory, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, and/or racist anti-immigrant ideas and prepare to present an interesting article/website to the class.