February 25: Cities of Refuge

Cities of Refuge

Alison Mountz
Professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Migration, Department of Geography, Wilfrid Laurier University and Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies, Harvard University

The City Talks: Alison Mountz on Cities of Refuge


Cities have historically played a key role in providing refuge for those seeking protection and sanctuary from conflict and militarism. Today, in Canada, Germany, the United States, and beyond, cities have become key sites of refuge for the newly displaced. Mining the depth of past meanings of refuge offers important lessons for the present and future. By refuge, I refer not only to formal ideas— refugees being resettled, asylum seekers seeking protection, war resisters forging safe haven, or sanctuary cities as harbingers for those without legal status—although these are all important. I refer more inclusively and hopefully to refuge-seeking of all kinds. People travel to cities in search of work, shelter, community, recognition, difference, or even escape. This coming into something, the search for recognition, the desire to be seen and part of something, signals many of the reasons why people migrate to cities. This talk explores the potential of all cities to be and become sites of refuge.

Alison Mountz is a Professor of Geography at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is a political, urban, and feminist geographer, and a lover of cities. She researches migration, borders, displacement, asylum-seeking, detention, and the ways that these movements change landscapes of home and belonging. She is the author of Seeking Asylum: Human Smuggling and Bureaucracy at the Border (University of Minnesota), which was awarded the 2011 Meridian Book Prize from the Association of American Geographers. Mountz is currently the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University.

This City Talk was co-sponsored by the European Union Centre of Excellence at the University of Victoria.
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