RCCORE 334 - Special Topics
Winter 2020, Section 001 - Refugee Narratives
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: RC Core Courses (RCCORE)
Department: LSA Residential College
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Class Misc Info:
Meets 03/09/20 - 04/21/20. (Drop/Add deadline=03/23/20.).
May be repeated for a maximum of 12 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:


According to the UN Refugee Agency, 1 in every 110 people globally is either an asylum-seeker or a refugee. Many are fleeing violence and persecution, but increasingly, they are forced to leave due to the effects of climate change. Displacement and statelessness are pressing realities in our world today and how we respond to them is a measure of our humanity. By international law, everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution (Art 14, Universal Declaration of Human Rights), and yet many world leaders are backpedaling on this legal commitment. Once this country prided itself on welcoming the “tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Today, we declare the arrival of those in need to be a national emergency and want to build a wall to ward off the alleged invasion. We see threat instead of opportunity, “criminal aliens” and “bad hombres” instead of fellow human beings. Words and images matter: they influence hearts, minds, and policies. The refugees are not the crisis, but rather, the narratives we tell about them.

In this mini course, we will explore the power of literature and art to present compelling counter-narratives to anti-immigrant rhetoric and politics. These narratives by and about refugees in the 20th and 21st centuries elicit compassion and resist the dehumanizing process of othering. We will compare media representations of refugees with more personal perspectives in non-fictional and fictional texts, films and performances. Works include Anna Seghers’ Transit and recent film adaptation, Leila Abdelrazaq’s Baddawi>, Chris Cleave's Little Bee, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees, Jenny Erpenbeck's Go Going Gone, Ai Wei Wei’s film Human Flow.

Refugees are not an abstract, distant reality relegated to the news or books. They are part of our community, albeit often overlooked or invisible. In conjunction with the “Refugee Narratives” mini course, students will meet and interview refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Central America who are learning English through the AAPS Adult Education ESL Program at Pathways High School (Ann Arbor) and Partridge Center (Ypsilanti). This community engagement project will be mutually beneficial: UM students will gain first-hand experience with refugees as interlocutors and ESL students will apply their English language skills in a meaningful way. We will collaborate with ESL instructor, Odette Petrini, to document and showcase their stories with the goal of bringing more understanding, compassion and resources to this community.


RCCORE 334 - Special Topics
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
M 6:00PM - 8:00PM
002 (SEM)
 In Person
003 (SEM)
 In Person
Tu 5:30PM - 7:30PM
004 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM

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