The Department of English and Humanities, University of Liberal Arts held a two day conference titled ‘Refugees in the Public Imagination: Discourse on (Dis)location and (Dis)placement’ on Friday and Saturday, December 22-23, 2017. The session was inaugurated by the Hon. Chairman of the University Grants Commission, Professor Abdul Mannan who congratulated ULAB for hosting a conscientious and comprehensive panel and papers on such urgent and pressing issues of our time as the global refugee crises. The welcoming speech was given by the Hon. Vice Chancellor of ULAB, Dr. Jahirul Haque. The Head of the Department of English and Humanities, Dr. Shamsad Mortuza expressed a vote of thanks.
The first day of the conference commenced with academic Dr. Anjali Gera Roy’s keynote speech titled, ‘Migration, Mobility, Immobility.’ Dr. Roy is a Professor at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur. Her paper was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Professor Imran Rahman, Special Advisor to the Board of Trustees at ULAB, who spoke at length with representatives from UNHCR and Save the Children working with the Rohingya community on site in Cox’s Bazaar. Other significant sessions were hosted by eminent scholars and academics, Dr. Niaz Zaman, Dr. Anjali Gera Roy, Dr. Fakhrul Alam, Dr. Debjani Sengupta, Dr. Perween Hasan, Dr. Razia Sultana Khan, Dr. Firdous Azim, Prof. Afsan Chowdhury, and Dr. Syed Manzoorul Islam. The first day’s parallel sessions covered a range of topics including transnational diaspora, public imagination and the migrant ‘Other,’ and racial-cultural hybridity.
The second and final day of the two day International conference began with Dr. Debjani Sengupta presenting her keynote paper titled, ‘An Enclave’s Marginal Lives: Selina Hossain’s Bhumi O Kusum (2010).’ Dr. Sengupta, an Associate Professor with the Department of English at Indraprastha College, University of Delhi, highlights the present day status of border enclaves called chhitmahal, parcels of territories belonging to Bangladesh while surrounded by India or vice versa, through the lens of the novel Bhumi O Kusum (Land and Flower, 2010) by renowned Bangladeshi novelist, Selina Hossain. Parallel sessions were being held, exploring such themes as trauma and memory, migrant voices, identity crisis within the Rohingya community, and the sociopolitical and cultural consequences of crossing borders.
The plenary session of the second day of the International conference was conducted by eminent scholar and political analyst, Dr. Salimullah Khan, Professor of the Department of General Education at ULAB, titled, ‘One and Only Figure of the Refugee.’ Through the works of philosophers, Giorgio Agamben, Frantz Fanon, and political theorist Hannah Arendt, Dr. Khan reflected on colonialism and imperialism still being very much the rule and not the exception ever since its historical inception in the sixteenth century. Following Dr. Khan’s speech, an academic session, ‘Refugee Narratives,’ was hosted by Dr. Zia Rahman, Mashrur Shahid Hossain, Oliur Rahman, and Samirah Tabassum . The academic conference concluded with an in-depth and comprehensive panel discussion on the Rohingya. Dean of Humanities at ULAB Professor Dr. Kaiser Haq gave the closing speech.