Carnegie Mellon University

Grand Challenge First-Year Seminar: In Transit: Exile, Migration, and Culture

Course Number: 66-144

The world is currently experiencing the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II. Large numbers of people are forced from home for political, personal, or racial reasons, and many others leave home because of grinding poverty and need. Conflicts about the mass migration provoked by this crisis have emerged all over the globe, from the United States, Latin America, and Europe, to Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and even Oceania. Writers, filmmakers, and artists have attempted to address the plight of refugees and migrants in their works, and many writers, filmmakers, and other artists are themselves refugees or migrants. Pittsburgh has a unique institution, City of Asylum, whose mission is to assist and advocate for persecuted writers and other artists. It hosts the largest residency program in the world for writers living in exile under threat of persecution or worse: death. The goal of this Grand Challenge Seminar is (1) to familiarize students with today’s plight of refugees (e.g., social, political, economic factors; cross-cultural comparisons; dynamics of class, race, gender, and nationality), and (2) introduce them to a variety of textual (literary and theoretical) and visual materials and to the resources available through City of Asylum.

Through readings, discussions, guest speakers, short papers, and group film projects/presentations, students will examine the ways in which writers, filmmakers, musicians, and other artists have addressed exile and migration in their work by constructing, revising, and reinventing images and cultures of the homeland. Students will explore a variety of texts (e.g., films, documentaries, art, music, photography; prose, poems, and presentations by exiled artists; archival materials; news reports, articles) and meet with and interview exiled writers and other artists.

Academic Year: 2023-2024
Semester(s): Spring