Telling Stories, Moving Pictures

December 19th, 2014

Storytelling and sharing good ideas are the bread-and –butter of our work at Cities of Migration. Here are some great reads and films to watch over the holidays from our colleagues and associates at the Global Diversity Exchange.

Talking Truths

Blind Spots: The Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji, Professor of Psychology & Social Ethics at Harvard University. Banaji’s keynote and workshop was a big hit at the Cities of Migration Conference in Berlin. Uncovering of the “blindspots” that unconsciously inform our behaviour was a profound learning experience and a precious take home to reset our thinking at both a personal and organizational level.

Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World by journalist Doug Saunders, offers an optimistic narrative of our urban future through an analysis of  global “arrival cities’ that mark “the most decisive social and cultural shift since the Enlightenment.” “We will end the century as a wholly urban species,” notes Doug Saunders, the consequences of which will affect everything from governance systems and financial markets to climate conditions and fuel resources.  Join the online Arrival City Book Club in January 2015!

The Foreign Spell by Pico Iyer. “To be a foreigner is to be perpetually detached, but it is also to be continually surprised.” The winter issue of Lapham’s Quarterly is on “Foreigners”, and offers a wide-ranging romp through historical, cultural and literary notions of ‘us & them’, from enemy aliens to cultural icon. Excerpted from Iyer’s new book, read the article on “The Foreign Spell“.

What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael Sandel “The most fateful change that unfolded in the last three decades was not an increase in greed. It was the expansion of markets, and of market values, into spheres of life where they don’t belong.” … including in immigration. As Sandel comments ” There are some things money can’t buy.” Read the Atlantic article, excerpted from the Harvard Professor’s new book.

Telling Stories

City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai. A story about the social landscape of Tehran, “a city where wealth rises almost linearly along a south-north drive up the tree-lined Vali Asr.”  A collection of migrant stories about those who migrate back to Tehran, those who leave, and those who stay. For anyone with a taste for Arrival City-type literature. Reviewed  in The Guardian.

The Beast by Óscar Martínez.  The “beast” that Óscar Martínez writes about in his often harrowing new book is not actually an animal. It’s the train on whose roof Central American immigrants ride across Mexico, making their way to what they hope will be a better life in the United States. The beast, though, truly is a monster: It can devour the lives or limbs of its stowaways, and hosts the human predators who target them.”  From a review in New York Times.

Family Life: A Novel by Akhil Sharma. Described as a “dark, funny novel about the hopes and troubles of an Indian family” that emigrates from Delhi to America. On The Economist’s best book of 2014 list.

Moving Pictures

American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs. What does it mean to be an American revolutionary today? Grace Lee Boggs is a 98-year-old Chinese American woman in Detroit whose vision of revolution will surprise you. A writer, activist, and philosopher rooted for more than 70 years in the African American movement, she has devoted her life to an evolving revolution that encompasses the contradictions of America’s past and its potentially radical future.

American Promise. American Promise spans 13 years as Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, middle-class African-American parents in Brooklyn, N.Y., turn their cameras on their son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, who make their way through Dalton, one of the most prestigious private schools in the country. Chronicling the boys’ divergent paths from kindergarten through high school graduation, this provocative, intimate documentary presents complicated truths about America’s struggle to come of age on issues of race, class and opportunity.

9-Man. This film  spotlights the uniquely Chinese-American sport, an older variant of volleyball popular in the southern Chinese city of Toisan and its surrounding region, as well as in Chinatowns throughout North America. Since the 1930s, young men have played this competitive street ball game in the alleys and parking lots of Chinatown. Some 80 years later, today, 9-man still has a lasting connection to Chinatown for a community of men who knows a different, more integrated America.

Refugee Republic is an ‘interactive transmedia’ documentary about everyday life in Domiz Camp, a Syrian refugee camp in northern Iraq that aims to enrich the existing image of refugee camps by building an ‘anatomical sketch’ of everyday life in the camp, through a combination of drawings, film, photography, sound and text to create a sensory experience.

UNHCR Tracks: Syria’s Oldest Refugees. An extraordinary photo-documentary Syrian elders born over 100 years ago, …”some ache for the past. Others pray for peace. And many dream of going home one last time.” The photos speak to our universal humanity.




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