Migrant Knowledge

Simone Lässig Interviewed on “In Global Transit” Research Focus

The latest issue of The Bulletin of the German Historical Institute has just been published. It includes an interview with GHI Director Simone Lässig on the GHI’s new research focus, “In Global Transit.” In the interview, conducted by former GHI colleague Dr. Nora Hilgert, Dr. Lässig describes the concept of “transit” and several events and projects the institute has already done under the “In Global Transit” banner. She further explains how this research focus arose, the International Standing Working Group that has emerged to study it (and why the response has been so positive), as well as the types of questions the topic raises, future plans, and much more! Here is a brief excerpt in response to the question of how the “transit” perspective addresses open questions in historical migration research:

We want to reconsider existing findings – for example, those in historical Migration and Mobility Studies but, above all, in the relatively new field of refugee history – by concentrating on phenomena and representations of life in “in­-between” or “liminal” spaces. These spaces have not yet been adequately studied …

…It was precisely in these physical and mental “liminal spaces” that migrants found it difficult, if not impossible, to figure out where they belonged; in them, people were forced to come to terms with “transitions” of all kinds – biographi­cal, cultural, economic, geographic, generational, and social. Migration rarely ever proceeds in a linear fashion from the point of departure to the point of arrival. Tony Kushner has pointed out that, both legally and practically, transit was an ever-­recurring part of migrants’ experiences. This applied especially to refugees in the twentieth century, who were con­fronted with unprecedented uncertainty and contingency, fear and confidence, hopelessness and new opportunities; they also had to redefine questions of belonging and identity. Refugees, until today, navigate within these different politi­cal, legal, and cultural frameworks but continue to face simi­lar sorts of challenges and opportunities.

Download the interview and check out the In Global Transit International Standing Working Group, along with upcoming events. The next virtual lecture in the 2022 series “In Global Transit: Exploring Migrants’ Liminal Spaces and Phases” will be on October 19 with Barbara Lüthi of the University of Leipzig.