2022 Lecture Series

In Global Transit: Exploring Migrants’ Liminal Spaces and Phases


Next Lecture: Barbara Lüthi on October 19 →

The “Exploring Migrants’ Liminal Spaces and Phases” lecture series, organized by Simone Lässig, Carolin Liebisch-Gümüş, and Swen Steinberg, is part of the GHI’s research focus “In Global Transit.” Bringing together experts on migration and refugee studies from different disciplines and thematic areas in the Summer and Fall of 2022, it opens an interdisciplinary conversation across contexts about the methods, potentials, and challenges of studying transit. Building on past conferences and workshops at the GHI since 2018, which have focused on the global trajectories of Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi persecution, it also encourages dialogue between the rich research on Jewish refugees in transit and general research on flight and (forced) migration in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Watch Previous Lecture →

Virtual Lecture | October 19, 2022  | 12 p.m. EDT

Transiting the Corridors of Deportations: Case Studies from the 1980s Switzerland

Speaker: Barbara Lüthi (University of Leipzig)
Comment: Maribel Casas-Cortes (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Introduction & Moderation: Simone Lässig,
Carolin Liebisch-Gümüş, and Swen Steinberg (German Historical Institute Washington)

Barbara Lüthi has been interested in complementing the state-centric view of policies in the field of migration with a bottom-up perspective from the point of view and agency of those affected. Her research on deportation thinks along these lines. Deportations have come to be regarded as the unavoidable way to deal with those foreign nationals who are deemed unwanted. “Transit” must be seen as an inherent part of this form of forced migration, marked not just by immobilization, but also by dynamic processes of resistance and contestations on the side of the deportees. In this context “deportation corridors” present an important theoretical approach of modern deportation processes allowing for a transnational optic. Whereas corridors can be understood as spaces of in-betweenness and movement, “deportation corridors” often shift between visibility and invisibility, between mobility and immobility as well as being marked by precariousness, hierarchies and specific spatial orders. In her talk Barbara Lüthi will shed light on the experience and enactment of the “deportation corridor” starting out from case studies during the 1980s in Switzerland. It examines different temporal and sites of experiences such as arrest, imprisonment, removal, or return, but also looks at the different types of actors involved in the “deportation corridor” such as the reaction of the deportable migrants, solidarity groups, political activists as well as those involved in removal procedures. The question arises as to when the experience of “transit” ends for the deportees.

Virtual Lecture | June 8, 2022  | 12 p.m. EDT

“The sea lays like an insulating layer between the home world and the course of these days”: Times and Places of Liminality in the Emigration Process

Speaker: Joachim Schlör (University of Southampton)
Comment: Leora Auslander (University of Chicago)

Introduction & Moderation: Simone Lässig,
Carolin Liebisch-Gümüş, and Swen Steinberg (German Historical Institute Washington)

Much of Joachim Schlör’s recent work has been based on German-Jewish family letters. Written between 1933 and 1941, during the process of emigration from Germany to a wide range of places “irgendwo auf der Welt”, the letters themselves – as well as, of course, their content – form part of a situation of in-between-ness. With his own background in ethnography, Joachim Schlör adds a cultural-historical perspective to the fields of Jewish Studies and Migration Studies and reads the sources as elements of a cultural practice: The ‘home world’ has become unbearable, and people prepare for their emigration. The ‘course of these days’ is insecure and, for good or for bad, open. After leaving a certain ‘here’, and before arriving in a different ‘there’, emigrants found themselves in waiting rooms and at border control stations, in trains and aboard ships. In many sources, this liminal status produced different modes of reflection about the past, the future, and the state they found themselves in – in the words of Robert Weltsch: “Where are we standing? Where are we headed? What eternal values do we recognize?” (“Zwischen Alter und Neuer Welt. Jüdische Rundschau, 26.3.1934). Joachim Schlör asks whether this transitory experience has also created a transitory state of mind.

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