<i>Departures: An Introduction to Critical Refugee Studies</i> by the Critical Refugee Studies Collective (A Book Review)


Departures is the introductory volume to the interdisciplinary field of Critical Refugee Studies, written by the Critical Refugee Studies Collective and published by the University of California Press. The book works on many levels and can be read in as many ways. Partly a guide, partly a manifesto, the book dutifully performs its pre-set task of introducing the general reader to the field of Critical Refugee Studies, all the while engaging with larger issues and challenges. Its manifold nature is made explicit by the title itself, intended both as an allusion to the action of leaving and to that of deviating from a regular path. Highly readable and sharp-edged, tailor-made for an audience that includes (and transcends) colleges and universities, this text will likely find its way into many class syllabi and reading lists. Located at the crossroads of theory and resistance, advocacy and academia, Departures oozes rage, energy, and optimism, and is unapologetically political.

The field of Critical Refugee Studies, the authors state in the “Introduction,” is “a way to seize control of image and narrative, by and for refugees, centered in refugee epistemologies and experiences." As a community-engaged critical field, it postulates the necessity of moving past pre-existing humanitarian narratives and frameworks, exposing the underlying threads that tie militarism and migration, power and memory, empire and race. Channeling Somali British and Palestinian poetry, Syrian visual art, and Vietnamese American independent cinematography, the seven contributors call for new methodologies and approaches, as well as for new stories that go beyond the simple “formula of … escape, despair, and rescue” embedded in mainstream refugee narratives. The book's aim is to break that mold, underscoring the “invisible relations of power that broker how we see and consume the refugee subject”; that is to say, to radically twist the ways in which the latter is defined by the law, by the arts, and by the collective conscious. Bold and provocative, Departures will not fail to spark conversations in the coming years.


Critical Refugee Studies; Departures: An Introduction to Critical Refugee Studies; a book review; immigration; emigration

Cornell Asian American Studies Program. “Critical Refugee Studies: Militarism, Migration, and Memory-work.” YouTube, 1 Apr. 2021, https://youtu.be/tXSqeD24zwE. Accessed 01/12/2022.

Espiritu, Yến Lê. Body Counts: the Vietnam War and Militarized Refuge(es). University of California Press, 2014.

Espiritu, Yến Lê, et al. Departures: An Introduction to Critical Refugee Studies. University of California Press, 2022.

Nguyen, Mimi Thi. The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages. Duke University Press, 2012.

Nguyen, Phuong Tran. Becoming Refugee American: The Politics of Rescue in Little Saigon. University of Illinois Press, 2017.

Nguyen, Thanh Viet. Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War. Harvard University Press, 2016.

Vuong, Ocean. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Random House, 2019.

Published : 2022-12-31

TrainaG. (2022). <i>Departures: An Introduction to Critical Refugee Studies</i&gt; by the Critical Refugee Studies Collective (A Book Review). Review of International American Studies, 15(2), 251-257. https://doi.org/10.31261/rias.14773

Giacomo Traina  giacomo.traina@uniroma1.it
Sapienza University of Rome  Italy

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