Version française

Catherine Wihtol de Wenden is a French political scientist and an emeritus professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po Paris), specialising in international migration. She is also a research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research. She has published more than 20 books and over 200 articles on the topic of migration. Awarded the Legion of Honour in 2014, Catherine is an internationally recognised expert in her field. A true world citizen, this is the fifth time she has come to share her deep knowledge and innovative research with Australian audiences (from 20-29 November in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane as part of the French Australian Conversations conference series organised by the French Embassy and the online media platform The Conversation).

27 November 2019: Between Fences (Film)

On 27 November the Alliance Française de Brisbane and the University of Queensland organised a screening of the film Between Fences by Israeli director Avi Mograbi at the Australian Cinémathèque (QAGOMA). This documentary film brings to light the stories of displaced African peoples seeking asylum in Israel, a state which will not accept them. Thus caught between two borders, to which the film’s title alludes, they initiate a theatre group in an abandoned barracks close to the Holot detention centre to make their stories heard.

The screening was followed by a round-table discussion between Catherine Wihtol de Wenden and Alison Levine, a professor at the University of Virigina specialising in French cultural history and film studies. The two professors gave their own reflective interpretations of the film, the former focussing on its political meanings and the latter on its cinematographic aspects. Following this discussion, they opened the floor to audience questions. Professor Catherine Wihtol de Wenden’s most engaging remarks touched on the perennial tension between international refugee conventions and the national security and identity politics which drive immigration policies around the world. She highlighted interesting new aspects of the international migration debate such as the notion that refugees are “entrepreneurs of their lives”, as well as their struggle to be considered by host states as individuals, each with a unique situation, rather than as a homogenous group.

29 November 2019: Crossing Boundaries (symposium)

On 29 November Catherine gave a keynote speech at the University of Queensland as part of the Crossing Boundaries: Language, Culture and Migration symposium. The topic of her comprehensive talk was “mobility and borders” in historical and contemporary contexts. Using images from one of her most well-known publications, Atlas des migrations (2018), she showed how the political, social and humanitarian challenges surrounding migration are evolving in an increasingly globalised, yet fragmented world. She also integrated interdisciplinary approaches from linguistics and sociology relevant to researchers in the School of Languages and Cultures, the organiser of the symposium. Following her 50-minute talk, she opened the floor to audience questions and comments. One audience member raised the question of Brexit, triggering an insightful reflection on the role that border protection played in the referendum and how the challenge of rising immigration in Europe could potentially provoke further political instability

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