About the Symposium

Hands holding world

Language and Migration:
Experience and Memory

Language is a vital, but underexplored, factor in the lives of migrants, immigrants and refugees. It has a direct impact on the experiences and choices of individuals displaced by war, terror, or natural disasters and the decisions made by agents who provide (or fail to provide) relief, services, and status. Distilled through memory, it shapes the fictions, poems, memoirs, films and song lyrics in which migrants render loss and displacement, integration and discovery, the translation of history and culture, and the trials of identity.

This interdisciplinary symposium will convene humanists and social scientists, field-workers and policy-makers, artists and writers, to think together about migrants as resourceful users, interpreters, and creators of language.

The symposium will take place online between Monday, April 19 and Saturday May 1, 2021. Amid the disappointment of not being able to hold the symposium in person, we’ve managed to find two advantages to the virtual format: to enable participation by those without the means or time to attend, and to achieve a more satisfying exchange among humanists, social scientists, and people who work in the fields of education, language policy and language justice. We encourage you to attend as many sessions of the symposium as you can, which are spread out over two weeks to avoid zoom fatigue.

Special events: Our symposium will feature two keynote speakers: Prof. Sarah Dryden-Peterson of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who will open our symposium with a lecture on Monday April 19; and Prof. Viet Thanh Nguyen, Aerol Arnold Professor of English, University of Southern California, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Sympathizer, who will give the closing lecture on Saturday May 1. On Friday evening, April 30, we are delighted to host a reading by Jhumpa Lahiri, Yiyun Li and Aleksandar Hemon, three distinguished members of Princeton’s Creative Writing faculty.

For panelists: To enrich and enliven our virtual gathering, we will maximize the time for exchange. To that end, we request that all panelists record their fifteen-minute papers and upload the recording via this Google Drive form by March 15, 2021. We will then upload them to a streaming site and send all registrants the channel URL for viewing videos before the symposium. (The preferred format is mp4, but we can also accept .mov or .avi.) Slides and/or text can also be uploaded via the Google Drive form if you wish. At the live sessions, each panelist will speak for no more than 10 minutes and pose one or two questions for discussion. We hope that panelists will make time to view one another’s recorded talks in advance of the live sessions. Guidelines for power point presentations can be found here.

Registration form can be found here. There will be one zoom link for the entire conference. (Panelists and chairs will also receive a special link for their sessions.) There is no registration fee.

The symposium’s primary sponsors are the Migration Lab of the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, and the Study Group for Language and the United Nations. We’d like to acknowledge additional support from the Center for Applied Linguistics, the Esperantic Studies Foundation, the Centre for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems, and Birkbeck, University of London. At Princeton, generous support has also come from the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Humanities Council, the Department of English, the Department of Comparative Literature, the Department of African American Studies, the University Center for Human Values, and the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication.

On behalf of the Migration Lab (PIIRS) and the Study Group on Language and the United Nations, we would like to thank you for your patience during the global spread of COVID-19. Please know that we have you all in mind for good health and safety during these difficult times, and we look forward to a lively conversation in the spring of 2021.

Esther Schor for The Migration Lab, PIIRS

Humphrey Tonkin for The Study Group on Language and the United Nations

"Language and Migration: Experience and Memory"
April 19, 2021 - May 1, 2021

Summary Schedule (NB: all times are ET)

Detailed program schedule can be found here.

Monday April 19, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm 
      Keynote speaker: Prof. Sarah Dryden-Peterson, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Wednesday April 21, 10:00 am - 1:15 pm
Friday April 23, 10:00 am - 1:15 pm
Wednesday April 28, 10:00 am - 1:15 pm
Friday April 30, 7:30 pm - 8:45 pm
       Special event: A reading by Princeton Creative Writing Faculty: Jhumpa Lahiri, Yiyun Li and Aleksandar Hemon.
Saturday May 1, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
       Keynote speaker: Viet Thanh Nguyen, Aerol Arnold Professor of English, University of Southern California, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Sympathizer


Live captions (CART) will be provided throughout the symposium.