Publishing as an agent of change


Indiana University Libraries houses volumes of print and electronic books and journals, but did you know it was also a source for publishing academic materials as well? Both the IU Press and IU Libraries’ Scholarly Communications specialize in publishing intellectual research generated by IU scholars and like-minded academics from around the world. As Herman B Wells said when creating the IU Press, “The Press will endeavor to extend the University’s teaching and research beyond the library, laboratory, and classroom, thus performing a function of a university peculiarly important in a democracy.”

Worlds in Crisis: Refugees, Asylum, and Forced Migration is a new IU Press series intended to be a space “for groundbreaking work on the causes of, experiences within, and responses to forced migration.” People-focused, the series hopes to address the multi-layered complexities of life when one has lost everything: home, locale, country, and rights. The three books that all come out in 2022 are as follows:

Book cover is a black and white photo of poverty-striken children in a classroom of sorts.
The title appears in blue and the subtitle of the book in orange against a geometric white background that is reminiscent of a tunnel.
This book cover is a splash of pink, blue, and green lines with a transparent blue box over top with the title, subtitle, and author's name.

The symposium and discussion

Perhaps because of COVID, the symposium was smaller. “There was no audience so whereas you usually attend an academic conference with presenters and a big audience, everybody who attended the conference presented something for the group. That made it unique.”

For Chaplin, her fellow presenters were exemplary. Though organized by the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies here at Indiana University, people attended from many other organizations such as the Bonn International Center for Conflict Studies, University College London, Warwick University, and the University of Rwanda to name a few.

“I love working with academics,” Chaplin says excitedly. “There was a freelance journalist who had just returned from Ukraine to attend the conference. He had been in Ukraine reporting there on the refugee situation as it was unfolding.” In addition, Prerna Rathi and Clementine Dupont from People Beyond Borders (PBB) impressed Chaplin especially. “They took the group through a -- I'm going to call it a self-help exercise. We all drew trees.” Delighted, Chaplin explains, “They handed out construction paper and markers. The purpose of the exercise was to identify the root causes of any problem. The root cause of your problem is represented by the roots, and then there’s the trunk which signifies the main conflict. The branches are for new opportunities and fruits that come from the conflict. They use this in their organization to encourage people to take control of the issues they can.” Chaplin asks, “Honestly how often as adults do you go anywhere, not to mention an academic conference, and draw?”

“What I took from what they shared about their experiences working directly with refugees,” Chaplin states, “is there is so much refugees cannot control. They have so little power over where they get to live and their citizenship status.” Organizations such as PBB attempt to help refugees feel like they belong.

Two women present to a classroom-like adult audience. A projector shows a tree and roots. Words are all over the graphic.
Women from People Beyond Borders present their tree exercise at the conference.                         
Image courtesy of Europe Gateway staff                                                                                                                                                    

“My other favorite presentation was a woman named Deborah Haber with Deep Arts. It was Deborah Haber and Casey Filiaci and a man named David Marshall with Blue Sky Films,” Chaplin shares warmly. Haber, who is the executive director of Deep Arts, wrote a play based on the lives of her parents who fled Austria during the Holocaust. Filiaci turned the script into a musical, “Moses Man, the Musical.” Marshall is working on a documentary about their  work. They have Indiana University connections: Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies’ Center for Global Change and the Department of Jewish Studies at IU. Chaplin adds, “They are going to be artists-in-residence at IU. Judah Cohen, who is with the Jewish Studies program at IU and a member of the IU Press faculty board, knows Deborah Haber and Casey Filiaci. That’s a connection I am excited about and hopeful I get to talk to them again.”

The work

“Working closely with refugees – I want to be clear: I haven’t worked closely with refugees,” Chaplin emphasizes. “I’ve worked with authors who represent their own experiences working closely with refugees.” Since the conference, more refugees have crossed borders in Europe, Africa, and elsewhere. Chaplin’s work of connecting vital information with an audience continues. “I’ve gotten at least one book proposal from the conference. I’m meeting with the author and I’m excited.” There is work to be done.

At the symposium, the work was close at hand with Ukrainian refugees traveling to escape war. “All that news was unfolding just before and during – Deborah, Casey, and David arrived earlier and left immediately – upon arriving they told us they put on the volunteer vests at the airport and started helping refugees find their way about.”

“It’s a bitter time,” she said, “a bitter feeling to be trying to navigate the personal and professional opportunity that presented itself; to present on the work in the series we’re really proud of but to be doing it with the undertone that this crisis that is happening might raise greater awareness. It’s difficult. It’s important to talk about it, and I’m glad we were there to talk about it, but there was another layer. As if refugee studies needed another layer.”