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Immigration and Refugee Policy in the United States

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Course DatesMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRNRegistration
June 15, 2020 - June 26, 20206/15 - 6/26M-F 9A-3POpenNicole Sintetos
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Course Description

This course examines the relationship between borders, race, and citizenship in a US context. In a political climate in which phrases such as the “Refugee Crisis,” the “Border War,” and the so-called “Muslim Ban,” have been deployed, it is more important than ever for students to understand the shifting grounds of contemporary immigration policy and its historical genealogy. Throughout this two-week course, students will analyze categories of the “citizen,” the “refugee” and the “immigrant,” and how each is represented within contemporary political, cultural, and popular contexts in the United States. At its core, this course offers a comparative analysis of the ways in which many ethnic groups in the 20th century encountered—and at times, challenged—various geographic and political borderlands.

The first half of the course offers a survey history of the Mexican and Canadian Borders. The mythic nature of the US Mexico and Canadian borders will then be contrasted with the reality of their increased militarization and present day function. We will both read and debate key legal cases and policy changes in immigrant and refugee studies, ranging from the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act to the current debate over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. The second half of the course considers various sites of “ambiguous belonging” within the United States. Here, students will consider the multitude of geographic and legal “states of exception” within the US: from interrogation rooms within Angel Island, to contemporary Cambodian refugee housing in the Bronx, to the camps of Japanese Incarceration in World War II, to the proliferation of US “black sites” such as Guantanamo Bay during the War on Terror. Students will apply this understanding to current events and as they develop their own Action Plan.

This course provides a comprehensive foundation for future studies in a wide range of interdisciplinary humanities and social science fields including: history, anthropology, public policy, American studies, political science, and legal studies. Students with a wide array of career interests will find the course material relevant and applicable.

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This course is part of the Leadership Institute, a two-week academic program that helps students cultivate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes associated with effective and socially responsible leadership. This unique program consists of three integrated elements: academic content, leadership development, and the Action Plan. Our students are thoughtful and compassionate youth who are interested in social issues and creating positive change. Enrollment in this program requires several hours of online engagement prior to campus arrival. This online participation may be completed at any time where internet access is available. Once on campus, participants can look forward to full days in a community of engaged and curious learners.

Additional programmatic information may be found here.

Prerequisites: None required.

Instructor Biography

Nicole Sintetos is a PhD candidate in American Studies at Brown University, where her scholarship considers the interplay of race, empire, and technology in the 20th century. Her dissertation project, “Reclamation: Race, Labor, and the Making of Settler States” is an environmental history of Tule Lake Segregation Center. She has been a contributing scholar and writer for The Choice Program ; a program that draws on scholarship from Brown University to produce innovative curriculum and videos for secondary school audiences. Before coming to Brown, she taught high school English and History at the Dublin School in New Hampshire.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEAC0922
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

Leadership Institute

Two-week non-credit residential program focused on socially responsible leadership and creating positive change. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2020.

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