Offering Refuge, Building Solidarity: Universities as Sanctuaries

Co-presented by NYU Sanctuary and the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU. Co-sponsored by the NYU Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program in the NYU Department of Social & Cultural Analysis, and NYU Center for Multicultural Education & Programs.

At a time of growing global anti-democratic repression against migrants, minorities and dissidents, how can the university serve as a Sanctuary? The expansion of the New Sanctuary movement beyond places of worship into universities began in the wake of electing an ethno-nationalist far-right President into office in November 2016. Even as universities like NYU represent themselves as sanctuaries for the free exchange of ideas, they refuse to declare themselves “sanctuary campuses” for targeted populations for  fear of state retaliation. This symposium highlights the meanings, possibilities and limits of “sanctuary” in practice for academic institutions of higher learning. In the US, as in many parts of the world, the university remains one of the few institutional spaces where the right-wing have not been able to exert its hegemony.

We hope to raise the following sets of questions in our symposium: What might we learn from the history of earlier movements for abolition and sanctuary in the US? What do scholars and students who have faced repressive political climates have to teach us today? How can universities offer physical harbor and amplify the voices and experiences of vulnerable or marginalized communities? In what ways do they foster the exchange of new ideas and of dissensual politics, and what are the limits of these intellectual and critical practices?

In this symposium, we consider the possibilities of building and sustaining coalitions around the coordinated attacks on racialized and migrant communities. We are especially interested in highlighting how activist-scholars learn from other one other, across the campus, across generations, and across the globe. This symposium offers scholars, activists, and students an opportunity for dialogue about the many ways the university can be mobilized for the purposes of sanctuary and for solidarity, and ends with a reception in the mural and sound installation, We Imagine Sanctuary.


1:00 p.m.: Introduction & Welcome

Crystal Parikh
Director, Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU
NYU Department of English
NYU Department of Social & Cultural Analysis

Paula Chakravartty
NYU Gallatin
NYU Department of Media, Culture and Communication

1:15-2:45 p.m.: Keynote Discussion

A. Naomi Paik, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Ravi Ragbir, New Sanctuary Coalition
Eric Tang, University of Texas, Austin

2:45-3:30 p.m.: Break

3:30-5:30 p.m.: Panel

Mohamad Bazzi, The Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU
Hüsniye Cogur, NYU Dream Team
Francis Dávila, NYU Immigrant Defense Initiative
Asli Igsiz, NYU Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Manijeh Moradian, Barnard College
Kanchana Ugbabe, Fordham University

6:00-7:00 p.m.: Reception

Reception for We Imagine Sanctuary created by Jess X. Snow and Ushka (Thanushka Yakupitiyage) in collaboration with NYU students will take place at the A/P/A Institute at NYU (8 Washington Mews).