Campus Spotlight: Sarah Lawrence College

This is an introduction to our Campus Spotlight on Sarah Lawrence College, and part of our special feature, Displacement, Memory, and Design.


Sarah Lawrence College (SLC) has been one of the core partners of the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education (CFMDE) since 2017. Thanks to the collaborative work among faculty and students across the four core-campuses, faculty and students at SLC have been able to further develop and build upon ongoing efforts to bring greater recognition and focus on key social and political issues of our time: those of migration, mobilities, displacement, and social justice. Through our various partnerships, collaborations, and initiatives developed over the years, faculty and students at SLC have been able to turn our attention (and the attention of our broader local community) to these issues of forced migration, asylum crises, and displacement. Students at the college are increasingly looking for opportunities to engage with these topics through community-engaged learning opportunities, their courses at the college, new international programs and opportunities, as well as new seminars and learning opportunities offered across the disciplines on campus.

At SLC, a small faculty core has formed the Migration and Mobilities working group that aims to build upon previous and ongoing work related to the key issues of displacement, mobilities, and forced migration. This group brings together students, faculty, and the broader public, both locally and internationally. The Migration and Mobilities Working Group has been striving to provide diverse and wide-ranging opportunities for students and faculty to engage with the key issues above, through events and town halls organized with the help of community partners and the Consortium. These include two town halls on Immigration and Detention in 2018 and 2019, which united college faculty, activists, and visiting legal scholars. Students at Sarah Lawrence have also been involved with migration-related initiatives through various forums and channels and with work and learning related to migration and displacement. This work and learning includes diverse and wide-ranging community-engaged learning opportunities at the college with community partners in the city of Yonkers and broader Westchester as well as through the work of the student-led refugee solidarity group. Some of the work of Sarah Lawrence alumni, as represented by James Cerretani’s work with Southeast Asian refugee communities and Clarence Dodge’s work on environmental displacement, for example, reveal the depth of engagement and enduring efforts on the part of students-both former and current-in this area of study.

In collaboration with the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education, faculty members Parthiban Muniandy and Adam Brown developed international summer programs for students across various liberal arts campuses to travel to Malaysia and Switzerland, respectively. The latter program, under Dr. Brown’s guidance, is currently based at the New School. These summer programs offer students at Sarah Lawrence, Vassar, Bard, and Bennington colleges the opportunity to learn about and work directly with migrant and refugee communities around the world. The Malaysia program’s interdisciplinary approach to ethnographic fieldwork with refugees in Southeast Asia, for instance, has brought together activists, scholars, documentarians, and journalists working on a broad range of issues including the plight of Rohingya refugees in the region and the environmental impacts of displacement and economic growth in a largely misunderstood part of the world.

By way of conclusion, this Campus Spotlight also highlights the work of Philipp Nielsen, currently the Faculty Director at Sarah Lawrence for the Consortium, who provides a timely and important insight on his history of European migration courses taught at the college. In his reflection, Nielsen considers the changing political (and geopolitical) landscapes that have led not only to changes in the world related to forced migration, border-crossings and displacement, but also to the focus and immediacy among students who continue to be interested in these questions as they contend with rapidly changing and increasingly uncertain circumstances.


Campus Spotlight: Sarah Lawrence College


Parthiban Muniandy researches temporary labor migration in Southeast Asia and South Asia, with a particular interest in exploring how new regimes of migration are emerging, under which “temporary labor” migrants are becoming increasingly commonplace in fast-developing societies in Asia. He is the author of Politics of the Temporary: Ethnography of Migrant life in Urban Malaysia (2015). His former appointments include Lecturer of Global Studies for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the director of Sarah Lawrence’s summer research and study program in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Ipoh, Malaysia.



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