Who belongs in the United States? What really is a border? Can we get along peacefully with a culturally different person without in some way assimilating him or her into our culture?
These were just some of the thought-provoking questions asked at the first event of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity’s (CSCRE) discussion series. Each year CSCRE holds a discussion series based on what is relevant to the current political sphere. This year’s series focuses on race and immigration.
Columbia University Professor Neferti Tadiar laughs as she begins her CSCRE presentation. Photo by Caylena Cahill '10
CSCRE Assistant Professor Sean Eversley Bradwell said the topic was chosen because immigration, which he said has become a racial issue, impacts us all today.
“The vast majority of U.S. citizens are immigrants, voluntary or involuntary, unless you’re indigenous to this nation," he explained.
“We’re spending more and more money on immigration policies, and as the global economy continues to shift we’re sure to see increases in the migration of people.”
CSCRE faculty members meet each year to decide on a topic and choose presenters, varying from academic speakers to artists, to frame different themes of the topic. From there, presenters give a 30-minute presentation, and students are given an opportunity to take part in a discussion.
CSCRE Assistant Professor Paula Ioanide said the point of the series is to have a conversation about the issues presented.
“Instead of calling it the ‘discussion series’ we could have called it the ‘lectures series’ and brought in a bunch of figureheads,” she said. “Really, this is creating a space for students to engage and discuss.”
Neferti Tadiar, professor of women's studies at Barnard College and director for the center for critical analysis of social difference at Columbia University, was the first speaker for this year’s series.
Presenting her “Contesting Imperial Belonging” talk, Tadiar explored the lives and treatment of illegal and legal immigrants in the United States.
Using historical examples, Tadiar showed how race has much to do with who gets to belong and be excluded from the United States and how U.S. imperialism had an enormous amount of impact in the rest of the world.
“I thought Professor Tadiar challenged people to rethink their notions of belonging, and how and if this belonging depends on someone else’s suffering,” Ioanide said.
Archana Menon ’10, who moved to the United States from Mumbai, India, in 2003, was intrigued by the series.
“The concept of immigration really hits home for me,” she said. “I came to the event with the hope of finding something I can relate to, grasp, absorb, and then possibly practice.”
Menon plans to attend more of the discussions to learn more about herself.
“This concept of immigration is so vast that one lecture will not do it; four lectures will not do it. But I’m interested in seeing what other speakers will present to me.”
Ariel Lawrence ’12 said coming to the series last year inspired her to minor in African Diaspora, one of the two minors CSCRE offers.
“I honestly believe that these are some of the best discussions that happen on campus,” Lawrence said. “I enjoy having a space where I can learn and discuss and grow with people outside of the classroom.”
Although important issues similar to those featured by the series are being discussed in various classrooms, Eversley Bradwell said, “This is an opportunity for the entire campus to come together and have a conversation on an issue.”
Ioanide said both CSCRE’s curriculum and discussion series offer Ithaca College students a distinctive opportunity to touch on topics usually too taboo to discuss.
“Generally, academic institutions don’t want to engage in political and contemporary debate,” she explained. “I’m not saying what we do here doesn’t happen elsewhere. I think what’s unique to this discussion series is that we’re willing to push the envelope a little bit further.”
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