CDHI Associate Director wins $449,922 to build counter-archive of diverse refugee experiences

May 10, 2022

A new collaborative partnership responds to an urgent need to increase capacity for refugees to document and narrate their experiences on their own terms.

Professor Thy Phu

Professor Thy Phu (Arts, Culture, and Media, UTSC and Associate Director, CDHI) has been awarded $449,922 through the SSHRC Race, Gender, and Diversity Initiative Grant competition. Led by Phu and Co-Director Edward Ou Jin Lee (University of Montreal), Refugee States is a collaboration between Critical Refugee and Migration Studies Network together with Catholic Crosscultural Services, and Agir Montreal, community organizations which provide cultural programming and resources to racialized refugees and LGBTQ+ migrants. The Refugee States partnership will build the capacity of non-profit organizations and peer researchers to create and preserve knowledge that they want and need through the development of workshops on visual and digital storytelling.

The digital and visual stories created through the Refugee States partnership will form a refugee counter-archive. Most stories and images of refugee experiences are collected by humanitarian agencies and the state through a process of compulsory testimony, which produce meta-narratives that bolster racializing, ableist, and homophobic and transphobic discourses. The Refugee States counter-archive will create spaces for migrant and refugee self-representation, shedding light on the diversity of refugee experiences, on anti-racist alternatives to the state, and on forms of sovereignty beyond nationhood. With videos, podcasts, and other visual and digital stories, the counter-archive will transform understandings of forced migration, and provide insights into pathways for addressing structural inequalities in the contexts of class, race, gender, sexuality, and other forms of diversity.

In addition to bringing together community-based collaborators, Phu’s Refugee States partnership is sponsored by the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative, the Department of Arts, Culture, and Media at UTSC, the Faculty of Information, and the University of Montreal.

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