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Reframing Migration: A Conversation With Historian Sunil Amrith

Nayar, Varun

Publisher:  Pacific Standard
Date Written:  09/11/2017
Year Published:  2017  
Resource Type:  Article

The 2017 MacArthur Genius Fellowship recipient's interdisciplinary work on the Bay of Bengal teaches us that movement and migration are central forces in the making of Asian -- and global -- history.



Sunil Amrith, a historian and the Mehra Family Professor of South Asian Studies at Harvard University, has been studying this complex history for over a decade. This October, his work--spanning three books and multiple academic publications--won him a MacArthur "genius" grant, for "illustrating the role of centuries of transnational migration in the present-day social and cultural dynamics of South and Southeast Asia."

Amrith is interested in how national and international institutions, from European imperialism to the United Nations, have helped or hindered the movement of people globally. His most recent book, 2013's Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants, reads like a biography of the waters, introducing us to centuries of historical forces that have shaped its surrounding populations.

To better understand where his academic work fits into our current geopolitical context, Pacific Standard spoke with Amrith about reframing the relationship between migration, nationalism, and the environment.


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