Homi K. Bhabha Lectures on the Question of Migration and Dignity

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2019
by Peter Makhlouf

On Thursday, February 21st, the Mellon-Sawyer Seminar on Migration commenced its spring semester lineup of events with a lecture by Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature and Language, and the Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University. Professor Bhabha, a world-renowned literary scholar, has penned pivotal contributions at the intersection of aesthetics, philosophy, and (post)colonial studies.  His talk was bookended by an introduction from and discussion with Princeton’s own Michael Wood, Charles Barnwell Straut Class of 1923 Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature. Wood’s emphasis on the theme of shifting spaces in Bhabha’s work resounded forcefully with the nature of his talk.

By a series of productive displacements—including Hannah Arendt in India and Walter Benjamin in the Caribbean—Bhabha argued for the capacity and necessity of art and philosophy to serve as fields within which the global issue of migration may be approached. By way of closing, Bhabha sought to excavate the somewhat lost notion of dignity and recover its relation to human rights as conceived in today’s world but also throughout the 20th century. Moving through disciplines, epochs and continents with erudition and verve, Bhabha ultimately began the spring series with a call for the cultivation of political and ethical passions in the service of rethinking how the world discusses migration.

With Bhabha’s lecture offering an emphatic start to the new semester, the Migration Lab looks forward to its next event, a two-day symposium on Migration and the Bible taking place on March 3rd and 4th in Julius Rabinowitz 301.