Immigration, Toleration, and Human Rights Conference

Syrian and Iraqi immigrants getting off a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos.
Syrian and Iraqi immigrants getting off a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Bill Talbott, Michael Rosenthal, and Amos Nascimento, of UW-Tacoma, organized the “Immigration, Toleration, and Human Rights” conference and “Immigration, Religion, and Human Rights” panel discussion that were held at UW on October 27-28, 2016.  The conference was part of an ongoing collaboration between the tri-campus UW interdisciplinary research cluster on Human Interaction—Normative Innovation (HI-NORM) and the Cluster of Excellence on the Formation of Normative Orders at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany.  The conference and panel discussion were the latest in a series of joint events that began with a conference at Goethe University Frankfurt in 2011 and will continue in 2017 with another joint conference in Frankfurt. 

The conference and panel discussion included participants from Goethe University as well as participants from the University of Duisberg-Essen, Germany; the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany; from Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa; from the University of Texas at El Paso; and from UW-Tacoma and UW-Seattle.   The topic was intentionally very broad, to include issues of concern in the U.S. and outside the U.S. and to include a wide variety of approaches.  The presentations addressed such topics as:

  • The potential for critical theory to provide a useful framework for thinking about immigration issues, presented by Amos Nascimento.
  • The appropriateness of military force in humanitarian interventions, presented by Elizabeth Bruch
  • The racial injustice of policies in the U.S. that stigmatize the “undocumented,” presented by Amy Reed-Sandoval
  • Whether the assertion in France and other European countries of free speech rights for speech that is deeply offensive to Muslims is objectionable because of its effect in reinforcing their less than equal status in those countries, presented by Mahmoud Bassiouni.
  • The Western European colonizers of Africa as “immigrants” and what we in the West can learn from African attitudes toward immigration, presented by Uchenna Okeja
  • Problems of internal “immigrants” such as the Roma in Europe, presented by Regina Kreide.
  • The importance of paying attention to the variety of reasons that people have for becoming immigrants, presented by Andreas Niederberger
  • The limits of justice and the need for mercy in addressing issues of immigration, presented by Michael Blake

The evening panel “Immigration, Religion, and Human Rights” was chaired by Michael Rosenthal.  It included Thomas Schmidt from the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Sarah Eltantawi from Evergreen State College, and Kathie Friedman from UW-Seattle.  Philosophy graduate student Alex Lenferna not only helped with conference logistics, he also videotaped the conference and panel presentations. 

Funding for the conference was initiated by an anonymous donation of seed money to the Friends of Philosophy that enabled us to obtain matching funds from other sources.  The conference, panel discussion, and related events were co-sponsored by the UW Tri-Campus Research Cluster on Human Interactions and Normative Innovation (HI-NORM), the Global Innovation Fund of the UW Office of Global Affairs, the Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities, the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at UW-Tacoma, the Department of Philosophy, the Program on Values in Society, the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, the Friends of Philosophy, the UW Center for Human Rights, the MERCUR Research Project: Ethics of Immigration at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities in Essen, and the Cluster of Excellence: The Formation of Normative Orders at the Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany.