Exile and migration
In the past, migrants migrated because they wanted a better life; now they migrate because they simply want to live. They are fleeing war, famine, persecution, hardship, unemployment, desertification or nuclear devastation. There are many different causes, but together they have changed the face of present-day migration and made it a bigger issue. Over a million migrants came to Europe over the course of 2015, a fifth of them children, and so far in 2016 there have been 300,000 new arrivals. More than 10,000 people have died en route to Europe since 2013. Dozens of detention camps, or ‘jungles’ have sprung up on the continent. Meanwhile, it is expected that there will be 250 million climate-related migrants by 2050. There are a billion migrants of all statuses combined in the world at present, either internally displaced or who have crossed borders. This is 1 in 7 of the planet’s inhabitants.
Europe is talking about a ‘migration crisis’ in the face of the severe difficulty it is experiencing in managing a situation that is beyond being simply a problem. This is a crisis in the etymological sense of a turning point, a new phase in the history of migration, which has been part of the story of the human race since it began and of which the movements of the latter third of the 20th Century still form a part. In the light of this crisis, studies on migration must make a paradigm shift and a symbol of this would be to adopt ‘exile’ as a definition encompassing all present-day migratory movements, whether forced or not, but giving priority to forced displacement as it requires both basic and applied research more urgently. Migrants are first and foremost exiles; in other words individuals. They are political and social players and must be treated as such. Migrants experience both the situation and the mental state of being in exile, which are a recognised dimension of the human condition. The primary aim of the Chair is to look at the relationship between the individual experience of the exile and the collective phenomenon of migration: to understand exiles so as to prepare more effectively for their migration and to understand migration so as to better welcome exiles.
The migration phenomenon of the last decade, which the new paradigm will refer to as ‘present-day mass exile’, does not lend itself well to a monodisciplinary approach, due to its complex criteriology. The variety of causes underlying current migration and their areas of convergence call for the development of an epistemology that combines different methodologies. To do this, these exile studies will call upon all the social sciences and humanities in a cross-disciplinary approach and even other disciplines, such as medicine (‘health and migration’) or engineering (‘transport and migration’). The justification for research into exile and migration is all the stronger given that its themes resonate with the major current subjects of debate in western societies, such as citizens’ responsibility, ethnicity, secularism, xenophobia or human rights.
Research under the chair is carried out in collaboration with voluntary sector and aid organisations and the arts community, bringing together empirical data and representations of the exile experience and migration phenomena. The European Union seems to be paralysed not so much by a lack of resources, which it has shown that it possesses, but more a lack of the overall vision that is essential in order to implement new policies. Helping to provide inspiration for such a vision ties in with the Chair’s objectives.
- A monthly seminar by the Chairholder at FMSH;
- A monthly meeting at the Museum of European & Mediterranean Cultures (MUCEM);
- Organising study days and symposia;
- Inviting internationally respected guest researchers and specialists;
- Supervising doctoral and postdoctoral research on exile studies;
- Building a collection of video recordings of personal accounts;
- Littexil: a day to meet writers tackling the subject of exile and migration;
- Cinexil: a festival of old and new films looking at the experience of exile.