In response to the unprecedented acceleration of forced migration throughout the world due to war, persecution, poverty, and climate change, Bard (Annandale and Berlin), Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, and Vassar colleges joined forces in early 2016 to found the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement and Education (CFMDE). While governments, NGOs, religious relief agencies, and tech innovators across the globe have devised an array of specific—and sometimes conflicting—responses to forced migration, we came together because we believe that institutions of higher learning can and must have a different, but equally vital, focus. Given the unresolved (and interrelated) challenges of climate change, global inequality, technological innovation, and war, forced migration will continue to increase and its implications, we believe, will dominate global politics as well as domestic debates for decades to come. As institutions of higher learning we are uniquely positioned to drawn on our robust local, national, and international educational and cultural networks to prepare our students for a deeper, more nuanced understanding of forced migration and displacement. Indeed, the coming era of human movement will, without doubt, challenge our existing national and global institutions, and our students must be able to respond to these challenges with intelligence, compassion, and ingenuity.

read full press release here 

Read the special issue of the journal EuropeNow on the Consortium’s work here

Our consortium uses the terms “forced migration” and “displacement” in the broadly inclusive sense to capture the range of people compelled to leave their homes. It is not limited to legal categories that privilege a particular “objective” determination of legitimate reasons to flee. Rather, it is deliberately intended to enable challenges to the legal or objective definitions and to rethink established categories. This intellectual work will go hand‐in‐hand with our efforts, as a consortium, to forge new relationships and asymmetrical co‐operations both within our own communities and around the world, and to develop our consortium’s public identity in order to attract new connections and share the ideas and practices we will develop as our initiative matures.

We came together because we believe that our students, given the scope of global forced migration, need opportunities to engage with this pressing global challenge during, not just after, their undergraduate education. Early exposure to refugee knowledges helps students develop as well‐educated, engaged leaders primed to pursue graduate studies or professional careers in the field. It is also crucial that these future leaders develop an historically informed and geographically comprehensive understanding of migration. Being able to draw on migrant knowledges and understand the historical conditions and current connections between migration taking place in different parts of the globe will allow students to respond to migration’s challenges in a truly innovative, forward‐looking manner instead of falling back on the standard assumptions and policies of their own national context.

The Migration Track in the Human Rights Program

The new migration track is housed within the Human Rights Program, and is designed to offer students a broad range of courses that will give them a conceptual framework for thinking about migration not as an isolated phenomenon but one that is deeply connected to social, political, economic, and environmental conditions that are best approached through interdisciplinary study. As with studying Human Rights at Bard, students will be required to have a primary focus area in a ‘traditional’ discipline alongside the migration track.

All students pursuing the migration track will be officially enrolled as human rights majors/minors, and will follow the same moderation and senior project guidelines and requirements (please see Human Rights program requirements)

Students pursuing the migration track must successfully complete the following:

1 – Lexicon of Migration ‘core’ course
2 – Three (3) courses relating to migration (view the fall 2019 course listings for the migration track)
3 – A senior project that addresses migration, either as a primary focus or as a substantive secondary analysis within the project.
4- Completion of a migration-related internship or intensive study program (winter or summer term) either here in the US or at one of the Consortium’s study abroad sites. Funding is available for students to fulfill this requirement. Please email [email protected] for more information.

If you’re interested in pursuing the migration track, please let your academic advisor know. If you’d like further academic advising for the migration track, please contact [email protected]

Students studying in the migration track also have opportunities to deepen their engagement with rights organizations both locally and internationally. If you are interested in pursuing an internship or summer research opportunity, please contact [email protected] to find out more.

Affiliated faculty at Bard Annandale campus

Sanjib Baruah (Political Studies)

Tabetha Ewing (Historical Studies)

Jeffrey Jurgens (Anthropology)

Aniruddha Mitra (Economics)

Dina Ramadan (Literature, Middle Eastern Studies)

Miles Rodriguez (Historical Studies, Latina American and Iberian Studies)

Peter Rosenblum (Human Rights Program)

Thomas Keenan (Human Rights Program)

CFMDE at Bard College Berlin

As a result of CFMDE funding, Bard College Berlin will be able to enhance its innovative curriculum in migration studies in a number of key ways. We are: bringing in faculty expertise on the Middle East and North Africa region in addition to developing new and expanding on-going courses on migration more widely; helping students across consortium campuses connect with each other in their classes and develop sound-related research and activism projects in a new transnational classroom and media lab; and creating a roster of events bringing students and the wider BCB community into contact with relevant experts, NGOs and community groups, artists and newcomer communities. These changes will enhance the consortium as a whole since Bard College Berlin serves as a key study-abroad site for CFMDE students, who can participate in a new semester study track called “Migration Perspectives.”

Affiliated Faculty at Bard College Berlin 

Kerry Bystrom (Literature and Human Rights)

Agata Lisiak (Migration Studies)

Marion Detjen (History)

Hanan Toukan (Politics + International Studies)



New courses that have been developed at Bard (Annandale campus) for the migration track so far:

ANTH/HR 224 Lexicon of Migration (Cross-listed: American Studies; Global & International Studies core course; Human Rights core course) Migration is one of the most important and contested features of today’s interconnected world. In one way or another, it has transformed most if not all contemporary nation-states into “pluralist,” “post-migrant,” and/or “super-diverse” polities. And it affects everyone—regardless of their own migratory status. This course examines the history of migration from local, national, and global perspectives, with particular emphasis on the uneven economic and geopolitical developments that have produced specific forms of mobility into and through the U.S. The course also traces the emergence of new modes of border regulation and migration governance as well as novel forms of migrant cultural production and representation. Above all, it aims to provide students with the tools to engage critically with many of the concepts and buzzwords—among them “asylum,” “border,” “belonging,” “citizenship,” and “illegality”—that define contemporary public debates. A Lexicon of Migration is a Bard/HESP (Higher Education Support Program) network course that will collaborate with similar courses at Bard College Berlin, Al-Quds Bard, and the American University of Central Asia.

HIST/HR 225 Refugees and Migrants in the Americas (Cross-listed: American Studies; Global & International Studies; Human Rights; Latin American Studies) The Border. The Ban. The Wall. Raids. Deportations. Separation of Families. Immigrant Rights. Sanctuary. Refugee Resettlement. These words – usually confined to policy, enforcement, and activism related to migrants and refugees – have recently exploded into the public view and entered into constant use. The current political administration made migratory and refugee enforcement, and of migration more generally, a centerpiece of its electoral campaign and the subject of its first executive orders, generating broad public controversy. Most migration to the US is from Latin America, by far the largest single migrant population is from Mexico, and the rise of Central American migration has proved enduring. Focusing on south-north migration from these Latin American regions, this class argues that it is impossible to understand the current political situation in the US without studying the relatively lesser-known history of migrant and refugee human rights over the last three decades, including massive protests, movements for sanctuary, and attempts at reform and enforcement. The class takes into account shifting global demographics, changing reasons for migration, rapid legal and political changes, complex enforcement policies and practices, and powerful community movements for reform, which are often forgotten with the opening and closing of a given news cycle. The class also argues that migrant and refugee voices matter and are critical to understanding migration as an historical and current problem. The course includes migrant, refugee, and activist narratives, and an array of historical, legal, political, and other primary sources. Its goal is to create a more complete historical understanding of Latin American-origin migration in the contemporary US context.

LIT 227 Labor and Migration in Arabic Literature (Cross-listed: Human Rights, Middle Eastern Studies)  Questions of migration, exile, and displacement have been central to the development of the (post)colonial Arabic literary tradition. Tayeb Salih’s Seasons of Migration to the North, widely considered the most important Arabic novel of the last century, charts Mustafa Said’s journey taking him further and further from Sudan, and the frustrations and impossibility of homecoming. While the effects of the expulsions of the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe) and the further displacement of the 1967 Naksa (setback) on the evolution of Arabic prose and poetry are widely recognized, questions surrounding labor, its precarity, and migrations are largely understudied. How for example, does the intersection of a booming oil economy with a displaced and transient workforce, reshape the cultural map of the region? Rather than treat the questions of labor and (forced) migration as separate, in this course we will look at them as intertwined and interdependent. By focusing on Arabic literary production from the second half of the 20th century, we will ask how such works produce a language and aesthetic of displacement and estrangement, one that is able to challenge the hegemony of national boundaries. Finally, we will consider how these literary texts, as well as their authors, travel and migrate to speak to different audiences and from new and shifting centers. Literary texts will be supplemented by theoretical and historical material and will be accompanied by mandatory film screenings. All readings will be in English. 

ANTH 237 Confronting the Crisis: Refugees and Populism in Europe (Cross-listed: Human Rights)  Since 2015, more than two million people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries have travelled to Europe, typically without state authorization, to seek asylum and refuge. This course examines the arrival of these refugees and the varied ways their presence has come to be viewed as a “crisis.” Drawing on recent ethnographic research and anthropological theorizing, we shall consider the discourses and practices that shape how people in the Middle East and Africa seek to cross European borders. We shall investigate the innovations in surveillance, security, and bureaucratic management that the EU and its member states have employed to prevent and regulate refugees’ entry. We shall explore the techniques with which state agencies have sought both to govern and to care for refugees after their arrival in European nation-states. And we shall critically engage with the populist rhetoric and violence that have targeted refugees as threats to national and European integrity. Throughout the course, our readings and discussions will reflect on the epistemology and politics of “crisis.” Is the declaration of a crisis a neutral act that announces a break from “the normal” in a self-evident, objective way? Or is it instead an ideologically charged claim that varied actors may employ to mobilize public fears, desires, and resentments and to promote particular visions of the nation, citizenship, and state obligation?


Would you like your course(s) included in the migration track, or want to propose a new course?Please reach out to us at [email protected]