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Humanity is on the move. Climate refugees, exiles of war, economic migrants, expatriates seeking new opportunities, along with others compelled to flee their current circumstances and look for a new life, are moving across borders comprise a chaotic movement en masse in greater numbers than ever in the history of humanity. Combine these movers with the billions of religious pilgrims, adventure travelers, and tourists, and we find ourselves in a chaotic world of migrations in every direction. How to make sense of it? What does this world of travel tell us about our future?
In this course, we will seek to make sense of all the movements in which we find ourselves and others. Readings on pilgrimage will intermingle with memoirs and essays on travel, writings and films on the act of walking, and readings and explorations of refugees, immigrant life, and border crossings. We will seek to understand this means for humanity and for us personally.
We will place ourselves in this mix of movers as we consider our impact on the world. We will consider related questions, such as: How should we think of places and identities in a world in motion? Are there ethical means of travel in this age of climate change and political upheaval? How does travel and an act as simple as an afternoon walk resemble the pattern of a human life? How does a labyrinth give us a glimpse into the meaning of movement in larger contexts? What can pilgrimage mean for non-traditional participants on a religious journey? How do we make sense of our place in a world where refugees are knocking at our door asking to be let in to American safety? What of border walls and their meaning for our collective human future? And more!
We will explore such readings as:
- Ian Reader’s Pilgrimage: A Very Short Introduction
- Selection from three books by Rebecca Solnit: A Book of Migrations, A Field Guide to Getting Lost and Wanderlust
- Henry David Thoreau’s Walking
- Frederic Gros’s: A Philosophy of Walking
- Duncan Minshall’s While Wandering: A Walking Companion
- Suketo Mehta’s This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto
- John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath
- Sonia Nozario’s Enrique’s Journey
- John F. Kennedy’s A Nation of Immigrants
- Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
- Timothy Egan’s A Pilgrimage to Eternity
- Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera
- Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive
- Charles Thompson’s Border Odyssey: Travels Along the US/Mexico Divide
- And more.
In addition to readings, we will watch and discuss such films such as Estevez’s The Way, Herzog’s Pilgrimage, Apted’s 63 Up, and the classic, Wizard of Oz, among others.
This course should appeal to anyone interested in current affairs, especially those reflecting on the meaning of life, whether backwards or forwards; those considering the meanings and ramifications of travel; global citizens hoping to live ethically in a world of the displaced; humanists concerned about climate change and movement; and generally anyone who has ever walked and, with Thoreau, wanted to reflect on what it means “to saunter.” Hint: the root word signifies walking is a holy undertaking.
Seminar format. Participation mandatory. Applied studies of pilgrimages, work with immigrants, and travel encouraged. No prerequisites. Meant to appeal to all GLS students.
The development and initial offering of this new course in the Spring of 2021 was supported through the generosity of GLS alumna Lottie Applewhite.
Charles D. Thompson, Jr. is Professor of the Practice of Cultural Anthropology and Documentary Studies at Duke University. A common thread through his work is a deep concern for people doing their all to have a voice in our agricultural systems.
Thompson holds a Ph.D. in religion and culture from UNC-Chapel Hill, with concentrations in cultural studies and Latin American studies. He also holds an M.S. degree in Agricultural Education from NC A&T State University. His particular interests include farmworkers, immigration, agriculture, and Appalachian Studies. His methodology includes oral history, ethnographic writing, documentary filmmaking, and collaborative community activism.
A former farmer, Thompson remains concerned about laborers within our food system. He has written and made films about small farmers and farmworkers. He is an advisory board member of Student Action with Farmworkers, the Duke Campus Farm, and other food and agricultural initiatives.
Thompson is author or editor of six books. His latest (2015) is, Border Odyssey: Traveling the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He also wrote Spirits of Just Men: Mountaineers, Liquor Bosses, and Lawmen in the Moonshine Capital of the World. He is also editor, with Melinda Wiggins, of The Human Cost of Food: Farmworker Lives, Labor, and Advocacy.
Thompson is the producer/director of five documentary films, including Faces of Time (2015), Brother Towns/ Pueblos Hermanos (2010), We Shall Not Be Moved (2008), and The Guestworker (2007). His latest film, in collaboration with the organization, Farm Aid, is entitled, Homeplace Under Fire (2016).