The Governing Body of Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (CRG) took a resolution  in its 35th Governing Body Meeting held on 23 August 2015 to institute a Distinguished Chair on Migration and Forced Migration Studies and it was offered to Professor Ranabir Samaddar.  The resolution was also approved by the members of CRG in its 19th Annual General Meeting held on 23 August 2015. The acceptance speech by Professor Samaddar "Crisis in Greece: Europe's Post Colonial Destiny" was held at the Academy of Fine Arts on 3 October 2015  from 6 - 8pm. For details of the programme click here .

Mandate of the CRG Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies

1.     The current post-colonial epoch has made us only partially aware of the deep interconnections between migration, society, and politics. The present worldwide phenomenon of migration has emerged in a historical background of population management, borders and border controls, partitions, immigrations, statelessness, citizenship practices, and the gradual evolution of a vast institutional regime to govern population management globally as well as nationally. The Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies in the Calcutta Research Group is set up in this context.

2.     Gruesome reports on migrants - of hundreds drowning as their rickety boats capsized in unforgiving waters, of them being enslaved or detained in squalid camps, even of their summary executions on the high seas - have punctuated news headlines with predictable regularity in recent years. These tragic incidents themselves have a long history. What is striking now is the scale and the magnitude of migratory flows across the Mediterranean, Bay of Bengal, and elsewhere, which have risen exponentially in recent years. The discussion on migration, forced migration, and citizenship has been never as relevant as now. The sheer number of migrants has thrown overboard the nice distinctions between refugee, asylum seeker, economic migrant, illegal immigrant, etc. The migration crisis in the developed world follows migration flows in the global South. There are similarities between what is happening in this early part of the twenty first century with what happened in the colonial and postcolonial world in the last one hundred and fifty years. India, for instance, has faced forced migrations from across borders since 1947. She faced a refugee flow of stupendous magnitude – about 10 million refugees in 1971 from the erstwhile East Pakistan to India.

3.     The research conducted under the Chair will be based on the need for a sustained inquiry into the background – both contemporary and historical – of the present migratory flows. The immediate triggers for the rapid increase in migrations may have been foreign interventions, civil wars, and continuing instability in the post-colonial world. But, the vast numbers of escapees of war and violence in this region raise several questions. These streams of migrants themselves are part of a larger chain of trans-African and trans-Asian migrations, as people in places further away move closer to the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean shores to situate themselves for the passage to comparatively secure regions like Europe or Southeast Asia and beyond. We need to inquire into the direct consequences of interventions and the indirect consequences of the structural adjustment policies in the post-colonial economies. At the same time, what is required is an analysis of the nature of the massive migrations in the post-colonial world that have historically preceded the current migration flows into Europe. Massive internal displacements and consequent internal migratory flows also feature the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In order to understand which populations are more likely to see migration as a route to security of life, or how foreign investments in land (and the consequent expulsion of peoples) and environmental degradation (and consequent loss of patterns of livelihood) have fuelled these migrations, or how the specific processes of decolonization (such as the partitions of Palestine and Indian sub-continent) have led to migratory flows, it is important to see the present migration crisis in the light of our historical experiences. It means bringing into the light the experiences of the past one century of partitions, border setting and dissolving, citizenship practices, statelessness, developmental displacements, disasters, and decolonization histories – all of which have made current migration flows massive and mixed.

4.     While the global refugee protection regime is characterized by power and influence of the developed countries, known collectively as the North, it will be important to ask at least on the basis of the post-colonial experiences: What is the nature of this power and influence at the margin, more critically, what is the nature of power and responsibility at the margins? Research conducted under the Chair will study humanitarian practices that are structured by certain modes of power, influence, and responsibility. The new research agenda will welcome inquiries into not only classic questions relating to the phenomenon of forced migration, but also issues like how the forced migrant as a subject features in such inquires, the public policies of the States towards population management, the nature of statelessness, and that of the legal reasoning, which plays globally, regionally, and nationally, an important part in making sense of this deeply equivocal relation. In short, the Chair will inquire into the structure of humanitarianism today.

5.     The new research agenda may inquire: How have new technologies of communications reshaped ways in which people look at migrations as a strategy for exiting an insecure environment? Which population groups are more likely to use migration as a strategy? How do these new technologies enable new trans-national networks of mobility, trafficking, search for shelters, etc., and conversely new mobile forms of control? How have these new technologies reshaped the presence of African, Asian, and Middle Eastern immigrants in Europe? What are the implications of their presence in the context of continually evolving xenophobic, cultural traditions for citizenship? How have processes of colonial rule configured contemporary conditions of differentiated citizenship, victimhood, and migratory flows? Can it be said that migration finally incorporates Europe in a post-colonial scenario? Can we revisit the theme of camps as gendered sites of refuge, internment, surveillance, human agency, and new community life? Most importantly, how do gender, caste, race, and other fault lines mark the current migration flows?

6.     Mixed and massive migratory flows include labour flows in contemporary conditions of neo-liberal capitalism involving the three processes of primitive accumulation, infrastructural expansion, and virtual accumulation. Financialisation of the global protection regime has accompanied these processes. In this background, the Chair proposes to examine the phenomenon of border economies that is fringe economies, appearing in mainland and mainstream economies, with refugee populations adding to new labour force in regions across the world. 

7.     Migration studies conducted by the Chair may include studies on forced migration, as well as studies on trafficking in labour and sex. It will imply viewing migration flows as mixed and massive.  Last but not least, critical thinking on migration has to study various transient forms of labour that embody labour-in-movement, in other words the phenomenon of transit labour. Migration and citizenship practices form the prism through which the new research agenda will examine society, economics, and politics. It will be characterized by a critical approach and informed by an awareness of the post-colonial nature of the current global phenomenon of migration.

8.     Besides initiating a new research agenda, the research programme of the Chair will consolidate the past research findings of the Calcutta Research Group in the area of forced migration.

9.     Towards the two ends, the Chair will be supported by a network of associates – institutions and individuals. It will be also helped by research staff. It will supervise research in this field carried out in CRG.

10.  Its research will be enriched by workshops and publications. One of the goals of the Chair will be to help new pedagogical programmes like syllabus making with insights from a critical research agenda.

11.  The Chair will support young researchers – both academic and activists – working on issues of migration and forced migration.

12.  Lastly, the research findings and time sensitive commentaries and opinions produced by the Chair will be transmitted to the public in the form of articles, papers, interviews, advocacy measures, reports, online entries, web-based discussions, and public lectures hosted by a variety of institutions.

13.  As a primary step, CRG’s website will host prominently the institution of the Chair and the activities under its aegis. 

14.  Though the Distinguished Chair is being set up by the CRG, the broader goal is to serve, strengthen, and broaden research in the field of migration and forced migration studies.

15.  As a beginning, the Chair is being set up for three years. There will be dedicated fund to promote the activities of the Chair. On the basis of a review of its achievements CRG may decide to renew the Chair.