Mother of Exiles: Refugees in American History and Myth
Speaker: Mae Ngai, Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History; Co-Director Center for Study of Race and Ethnicity, Department of History
Emma Lazarus called America the “mother of exiles” in her poem, “The New Colossus,” which graces the Statue of Liberty.
This lecture examined the enduring idea of America as a land of hope and refuge for the persecuted and oppressed. It went beyond the familiar narratives of the Puritan settlers and the Statue of Liberty to think about how the idea of asylum has historically justified and obscured nation-building and racial agendas. It compared the politics surrounding cold war refugees from Europe, China, Cuba and Vietnam, and considered the contemporary recasting of Central American asylum seekers as undocumented migrants.