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Taking Children: A History of American Terror

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Discussing histories of family separation in the United States as a mode of political and social control, and modes of resistance.

About this Event

Images of children in detention camp cages along the US/Mexico border shocked the conscience of many Americans in the latter part of the 2010s, as these images came to represent official US immigration policy. Yet, as historian Laura Briggs argues in her new book, Taking Children: A History of American Terror (2020), the separation of children from their families has a long history in the United States. From the slavery auction block to boarding schools for Native children and more contemporary practices that penalize Black, Native, Latinx, and poor families, the removal of children from their families has long been a strategy of political and social control.

This event brings together historian Laura Briggs in conversation with novelist Valeria Luiselli and law professor Dina Francesca Haynes. The three panelists will address the long history of policies of family separation in light of the current anti-migrant federal policy on the southern border of the United States. They will also highlight modes of organizing and resistance to such policies—through activism, legal strategies, storytelling and culture-making, and mutual aid.

The event will stream live on BCRW's YouTube Channel at 6:30 p.m.

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Live captioning and and ASL interpretation will be provided. Please email any additional access needs to ekausch@barnard.edu. This event is free and open to all.

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Word Up! Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria, a volunteer-run community bookshop in Washington Heights, is partnering with BCRW to sell books related to our fall events online. Visit their BCRW shop to purchase this book and support your local bookseller.

About the Speakers

Laura Briggs is Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of Taking Children: A History of American Terror (University of California Press, 2020), How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump (University of California Press, 2017), Somebody’s Children: The Politics of Transnational and Transracial Adoption (Duke University Press, 2012), which won the James A. Rawley Prize of the Organization of American Historians, and Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico (University of California Press, 2002). She co-edited a special issue Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism entitled “Radical Transnationalisms: Reimagining Solidarities, Violence, Empires” (2019). She also co-edited with Diana Marre International Adoption: Global Inequalities and the Circulation of Children (New York University Press, 2009). Her writing and research have also appeared in Adoption and Culture, American Quarterly, Feminist Studies, The Scholar and the Feminist Online, Radical History Review, and American Indian Quarterly. She has been part of the organizing collectives of the Tepoztlán Institute for Transnational History and the Thinking Transnational Feminisms Summer Institute.

Dina Francesca Haynes is Professor of Law at New England Law, Boston, where she teaches immigration, refugee and asylum law, human trafficking and constitutional law. She has also taught at Georgetown University Law Center and American University’s Washington College of Law. Prior to teaching law, she spent a decade practicing international law within international organizations (as Director General of the Human Rights Department for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Human Rights Advisor to the OSCE in Serbia and Montenegro, and a Protection Officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Professor Haynes was also an attorney for the United States Department of Justice and clerked on the Constitutional Court of South Africa. She engages in extensive pro bono representation of refugees, asylum seekers and other constitutional and human rights legal matters relating to migration. She researches, writes, and engages in policy work, legal advocacy and direct client representation in the areas of refugee and asylum law, immigration, human trafficking, human rights, and gender during and after conflict. Her most recent two books, on the topic of gender and conflict, are published by Oxford University Press. Her most recent articles, on immigration, gender and authoritarianism, are published in the Human Rights Quarterly and the Yale Journal on Regulation.

Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa and India. An acclaimed writer of both fiction and nonfiction, she is the author of the essay collection Sidewalks; the novels Faces in the Crowd and The Story of My Teeth; Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions and Lost Children Archive. She is the recipient of a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship and the winner of two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, The Carnegie Medal, an American Book Award, and has been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Kirkus Prize, and the Booker Prize. She has been a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree and the recipient of a Bearing Witness Fellowship from the Art for Justice Fund. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Granta, and McSweeney’s, among other publications, and has been translated into more than twenty languages. She is a Writer in Residence at Bard College and lives in New York City.

About the image

Original illustration by Avis Charley, Spirit Lake Dakota/ Navajo artist, in the traditional ledger paper style, for High Country News. Used with permission from the artist.

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