Environments of Exile: Refugees, Nature, and Representations. Biennial Conference of the North American Society for Exile Studies
Forced migration always takes place within specific cultural, social, and political environments, but also within specific natural environments: natural disasters and conservation efforts trigger migration. At the same time, escape also takes place in nature – for example, when people hide in forests, flee across unguarded ‘green’ borders, or cannot reach safety behind oceans or mountains. Migration brings people into different climates they are not familiar with. These considerations affect survival in different ways because specific knowledge about nature and the environment influences flight and exile too: both about the conditions of survival in nature during flight (shelter, food, health) and also the possibilities of arrival and integration during exile, for example through specific knowledge about nature in agriculture, mining, or forestry. Consequently, exiles and refugees had an impact on the environment if their knowledge about nature was not ignored or subdued. Furthermore, natural spaces, especially at borders, were places of resistance to persecution and oppression; here, nature became a political space where knowledge circulation took place, and relief was organized. Finally, exile and environment are also related to the transformation or conservation of identity. These processes can be reconstructed, for example, in memories as well as in artistic representations about environments of exile.
The Biennial Conference of the North American Society for Exile Studies follows recent debates about the human right to landscape (Egoz/Mahkzoumi/Pungetti 2011) and approaches in the Environmental History of Modern Migrations (Amiero/Tucker 2017) by extending them to historical perspectives on forced migration: to spatialities and temporalities of environment in contexts of escape and exile in the first half of the 20th century and, in particular, the flight from Nazi-occupied Europe. Nevertheless, papers dealing with other refugee movements or comparative perspectives are also invited. Possible topics include but are not restricted to: