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Academic mobility, (im)mobility and forced mobility: Experiences of displaced academics

Wed, March 28, 5:00 to 6:30pm, Museo de Arte Popular, Floor: Ground Floor, Auditorium


In this paper, I problematize the ‘dark side’ of academic mobility, focusing not only on the ways in which higher education scholars are expected and compelled to be mobile as necessary components of a successful academic career, but also the ways in which academics are forced to move against their will or unable to move across borders (Fahey & Kenway, 2010; Larsen, 2016; SARS, 2016). Civil strife, extreme poverty, humanitarian and environmental disasters, as well as attacks on higher education communities are occurring at a shocking rate globally, threatening the safety and well being of scholars (SARS, 2016). Such phenomena have forced higher education scholars to seek refuge abroad. The focus of this paper is on the manifestations and experiences of displaced higher education scholars (i.e. faculty/professors) who have been forced to migrate from their home countries.
Drawing upon theories associated with the spatial and mobilities turn (Massey, 1994; Urry, 2002, 2007) in social science research, I review the ways that migration (or forced mobility) has infused the lives of higher education scholars, both historically and in contemporary times to demonstrate how academic spatialities and (im)mobilities are entangled with temporalities that are uneven, unequal and unjust (Kohn, 2011; Larsen, 2018; Welch, 2012).
The paper draws upon data from an empirical study involving survey and interview research on academic mobility paying particular attention to the experiences of higher education academics, particular from Global South countries, who have been forced to leave their home countries due economic pressures leading to what some scholars call brain drain (Amazan 2014; Teferra 2008). In addition, in line with the focus of this panel, I examine the experiences of displaced academics whose academic freedom has been restricted through the repression of their research, publication, teaching, and learning are often forced to leave their home countries and become displaced academics (SARS, 2016). For example, civil strife in countries such as Ethiopia, Turkey, and Syria has forced many academics to leave their own countries against their will and become, unwillingly, displaced academics.
The data demonstrates the particular challenges that migrant/displaced academics face. Bringing together this new data with existing data about academic mobility illuminates how the globalized academic profession is governed through mobility, as some academics enact their choice to travel, while others are forced to migrate, and others, simply unable to move across borders. Thus, mobility and immobility are viewed not as distinct processes, but embedded within and paradoxically presuppose each other in complex, uneven and, in many cases, unjust ways.


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