Border Crossing Narratives: Learning from the Refugee Experience

The special focus of the 2019 Diversity Conference will address intercultural learning in the wake of global refugee experience. In times of crisis, the refugee presence challenges senses of nation and the practicalities of service provision. We find the “global other” confronting both our identities and our institutions. Socioeconomic crisis accentuates differences and skepticism towards the “other.” These modern border crossers bring the challenges of globalization and ubiquitous learning into our doorstep. They prompt the social psyche to collective storytelling. What are the refugee stories? And how much do they influence challenge or extend national narratives of citizenship? Does the mix of “natives” and “foreigners” create an everyday global awareness? Or How much does the refugee presence alter the nature and dynamics of territorially-defined governance systems?

The refugee experience involve a multifaceted border crossing through diverse ‘territories” within organizations, communities and nations. These territories are defined by both physically marked borders and intangible lines, often invisible in space (symbolic, imaginary, temporal, or epistemological borders). Spatial and intangible borders can be seen from particular, embodied viewpoints, and might be crossed by the gaze and other senses, before being crossed by the body. Border crossing may be successful or unsuccessful and it always offers an occasion for story or narration. The proliferation of narratives connects individual experiences to the larger narratives of nation building and can, thus, be apprehended as a performative renegotiation towards an inclusive citizenship. Border crossing and its narratives are politically defined in public discourse. The reactions coming from different stakeholders, from humanitarian to racist, alert societies to the need to address diversity in an open and democratic way. To this end, narratives are important to influence policy decisions and create a localized cultural response to diversity and equitable service provision.

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