Reflections on Chapter 1, Age of Migration
- I just took the course “Migration, Displacement, and Return” last quarter, so many of the topics and points brought up in that class are coming back to me for this reading. We had begun with the UNHCR 1951 Refugee Convention (which can be found here) and was worth reading because I hadn’t really thought about what defines a “refugee”, it had seemed obvious until I read this article. Though our reading is about migration overall and not refugees per se, I think the information is pertinent – especially since we will be working with refugees and asylum seekers in Berlin. This reading mentions the Cold War several times and the 1951 Refugee Convention was written in response to World War II. One thing that had struck me when I first read it is that countries such as the US had been willing to take in refugees and immigrants for two reasons: one, to fill labor gaps and two, to draw people away from Communism. It wasn’t entirely out of the goodness of our hearts that the United States was willing to help these people.
- On page 15, it says, “International migration does not always create diversity. Some migrants, such as Britons in Australia or Austrians in German, are virtually indistinguishable from the receiving population. Other groups, like Western Europeans in North America, are quickly assimilated.” I remember reading something in the aforementioned previous class that said holding a passport from the U.S. or many Western European countries is akin to nobility. We have freedom of movement and, as stated here, are, are physically indistinguishable in many regions. One thing that’s always been on my mind is why some people are referred to as “expats” while others are “immigrants” or “migrants.” I thought it was interesting that this article mentions groups like Austrians, Britons, and North Americans and uses the term “migrants.” These are groups that, amongst themselves, refer to themselves as “expats” not migrants. When I lived abroad, these Western migrant groups rallied together in “expat meetups” and frequented websites like expats.cz. Some people (I confess to being one) made a big deal out purposefully avoiding these “expat communities” in lieu of mixing with locals or “migrants” from other countries. (I had friends who had gone to the Czech Republic from Bulgaria, for example, who never would have dreamed of calling themselves and “expat.”) I think the terms we use are very telling, if not important. (I had stopped calling myself an expat once I thought more about how these terms are used.)
- On page 2, it says, “The nation-state system still endures despite the growth in the power of global markets, multilateralism, and regional integration. National states command the loyalties of most human beings and millions have fought and died for them in recent memory.” I don’t have a point here that I can coherently wrap up in a short paragraph, but it references something I’m interested in diving deeper into for my senior thesis: the idea of “possessiveness” and ownership of spaces and territories and attachment to place. I don’t feel that I have a particular attachment to a place nor feel loyalty to one territory over another (in this case, the US). Maybe this is due to my privilege as someone who has the freedom to move around or because I haven’t been denied entry or forced to leave anywhere. I do often feel fortunate for having the luck of the draw – I didn’t choose to be born in the US, I just was and I don’t feel that I have any more right to be here than anyone else from anywhere else in the world. The argument has been made that humans used to be nomadic and weren’t tied to any particular place but it’s hard to imagine it any differently now. I don’t think I can imagine the world ever having entirely open borders (especially in this time when it seems everyone is reinforcing them more than ever) but what are others’ thoughts on this idea? Would it be so terrible to let go of individual culture and ideas and for everyone to just blend together? (Is this a question that only someone in a position of privilege would ask?) Could we ever have entirely open borders? What would that look like?