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UPDigest- Sociology Newsletter (Fall 2021)

UPDigest- Sociology Newsletter (Fall 2021)

Check out our full November 2021 Sociology UPDigest!

Dear students, the COP26 United Nations Climate Summit just ended with a fragile attempt and compromise to keep the 1.5c warming target alive as a glimmer of hope. For people in the Global South who have had to endure the slow violence of global injustice and environmental degradation, this has been another disillusioning experience, since countries historically responsible as the largest emitters on earth along with the rising hegemonic powers haven't stepped up to the extent necessary.

In other words: it is not good enough. While the urgency to act is more apparent that ever in this critical decade, as sociologists we know that for many communities and people we work with, displacement, dislocation, erosion of social safety nets, and the breakdown of political structures have been things to cope with since many years. All factors combined have resulted in more climate and political refugees on the move.

In The Land of Open Graves (UC Press, 2015) Jason de Leon draws a drastic picture of what being on the move means from the perspective of those desperately trying to cross the US- Mexican borderlands, where they have become subject to a policy of deterrence and detention. The Prevention Through Deterrence (PTD) Policy is now common worldwide, from Canada/US to Europe and Australia. It is a mechanism to fend off migrant movements, and it is a policy that causes death and suffering. We currently witness this logic at the Poland-Belarus border. We've seen it in the story of the Moria refugee camp and many other instances.

For de Leon, PTD is a cynical scheme that makes the US-Mexican borderlands, the Sonoran desert through which people cross, a place of egregious human rights violations. The combined factors of border surveillance, scorching heat, wild animals and human traffickers form a "hybrid collective" through which this policy is enacted. The borderlands are also a place where material artifacts of migration capture the silenced history of people's struggles that are often kept from the purview of public debate. Below find some further reflections of mine in the form of a short book review.

We devote this UPDigest to reflect on the materialities of violence, the role of bodies and memories, as we critically engage with dominant images that frame contemporary understandings of dislocation and migration. Also in this issue, Deborah Davidson reflects on her work on commemorative tattoos that "honour, recognize, and speak to a wide variety of experiences such as one’s accomplishments, change, resilience, or dreams."  Khalida Ramyar draws attention to Afghanistan and how the current humanitarian crisis evokes a litany of stereotypes on Afghans that date back to colonial times.

You will also find some event notifications, program updates, our program learning objectives, and an invitation by our amazing student association S.U.S.A. to participate in their projects & events.

With this concluding newsletter for 2021, we hope that you gain some insights for your own work and find encouragement to act for social change.

Wishing you all a peaceful end of the year and stay well!

Best wishes,

Michael Nijhawan, Undergraduate Program Director, Sociology, York University