The Migration Studies Working Group will host its third annual Migration Studies Symposium on Friday at the Ohio Union. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

The Migration Studies Working Group will host its third annual Migration Studies Symposium on Friday in the Ohio Union. The free symposium will include panel and public discussions as well as a research presentation by Kelly Yotebieng, vice-president of MSWG and Ph.D. candidate in anthropology.

MSWG was founded in fall 2016 by Carolin Mueller, MSWG’s president, and Eleanor Paynter, Ph.D. candidate in comparative studies, while they were graduate students. At the time, they saw a lack of resources for graduate students studying migration worldwide to exchange their methodology.

“At first, we started with reading sessions, for which members suggested topics, provided readings and led discussions. The reception was great and always provided unique opportunities to familiarize ourselves with current work in different disciplines,” Mueller, a Ph.D. candidate in Germanic languages and literatures, said.

Led by Ohio State post-doctoral researcher Sona Kazemi Hill, the first panel discussion begins at 9:45 a.m. and will focus on migration and medical disabilities.

“The upcoming event is particularly exciting because, at the current historical moment, we feel that it is pertinent to engage with the borders and boundaries of migration studies itself,” Mueller said.

Following Hill, Yotebieng will discuss Rwandan urban refugee women in Cameroon and their capacity to aspire, which is a theoretical framework in anthropology that aims to understand the aspirations and obstacles of a person. Yotebieng said when capacity to aspire is applied to public health and humanitarian programs, it can lead to more effective support systems for refugees.

Yotebieng also said she is hoping to challenge the stereotypical image of refugees in media.

“I want people to take away that pictures in the media of the suffering, helpless refugee that’s just waiting for somebody to give them handouts is very flawed,” Yotebieng said.

“Immigrant Rights in the Trump Era,” a public discussion starting at 1:30 p.m., will bring together immigration attorney Amy Bittner and Ruben Castilla Herrera, a local political organizer and vocal critic of President Donald Trump.

The final panel discussion will be about historical migration in the Mediterranean and will feature seven panelists from across academia.

“Movement in the Mediterranean and transit in the Mediterranean is a constant and has always been,” Paynter said. “It’s drawing global attention to questions of asylum and human rights because it’s one of the [deadliest], if not the deadliest, border crossings.”

According to the United Nations, more than 700 migrants drowned in a span of three days in May 2016. The UN Refugee Agency reports 2,262 migrants died in 2018 while “attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.”

“What’s happening in the Mediterranean raises critical questions about how we understand borders and the rights of migrants around the world,” Paynter said.

Paynter said she hopes the panel is accessible to everyone.

“A panel like this doesn’t presume that people have a lot of background knowledge about the area,” Paynter said. “Come curious.”

All symposium events will be held at the Ohio Union in the Round Meeting room and will be livestreamed on the group’s YouTube channel.

To learn more about MSWG and this year’s symposium, visit its website. (