March 4 symposium explores immigration issues

Apr 1st, 2011 | By | Category: Campus News, Feb. 24

History, politics and personal narratives on immigration will be the focus of an upcoming symposium that will feature local and national scholars and writers.

On March 4 the Center for Great Plains Studies will host its 37th interdisciplinary symposium, “Diverse Faces, Shared Histories: Immigrants on the Great Plains.” All presentations will be in the Great Plains Art Museum and are free and open to the public. UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman will open the symposium at 9 a.m. with a welcome and remarks.

The symposium is designed to broaden perspectives about immigration from the perceptions of Native, African American, and Latino scholars, said symposium chair Amelia Maria de la Luz Montes, associate professor of English and Ethnic Studies at UNL.

Following is a list of presentations, speakers, and their institutions:

“Freeways and African American Displacement in the Postwar Era” by Nicholas Swiercek, UNL graduate student in history. He will discuss post-World War II freeway construction in the Great Plains and housing displacement for communities of color. His talk, using Omaha as a case study, places freeway construction within the context of the Black Freedom Movement of the 1960s.

“Immigration as Cultural Imperialism: An Indian Boarding School Experience” by Thomas Gannon, UNL associate professor of English and ethnic studies. His talk will revolve around his Indian boarding school experience on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

“Corazon y Tierra/Heart and Land: Latinas Writing on the Great Plains” by Montes. Her talk will focus on Latina authors whose literary work places a careful and critical lens on place and the struggle for survival.

“Pursuing the Dream: An Immigrant’s Story” by Sergio Wals, UNL assistant professor of political science and ethnic studies. Wals’ talk will focus on some of the most pressing challenges surrounding the current immigration debate facing our state and nation by offering both an academic perspective and personal insights into the process of becoming an American citizen.

“Arizona: A Problematic Road Map for Nebraska and Other States” by Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernandez, associate professor of gender and women studies at the University of Arizona. Her talk will explore the current climate of anti-immigrant racism as part of the larger arch of Arizona’s politics of exclusion beginning with late-19th-century Indian wars and contemporary debates of citizenship and violence.

“The Middle of Everywhere: Fostering Compassion in Challenging Times” by Mary Pipher, author of “The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community.” Pipher will discuss the current situation for refugees and immigrants and talk about ways we can all work to expand the moral imaginations of our citizens and develop a kinder, more welcoming culture.

The symposium will conclude with a reception at 5 p.m. in the Great Plains Art Museum, followed by an evening of readings by UNL faculty Joy Castro, Ricardo Garcia, Fran Kaye and Montes at 7 p.m. in the Sheldon Museum of Art.

For more information, go to or call (402) 472-3082.

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