Engaged Faculty Spotlight: Refugee and Migrant Populations

December 3, 2020

This month we spotlight a faculty member whose work engages refugee and migrant populations.

Dr. Yannis Hamilakis is Joukowsky Professor of Archaeology and a Professor of Modern Greek in the Department of Anthropology at Brown. As an archaeologist, Dr. Hamilakis’s work naturally brings him outside traditional academic settings, opening doors for collaborative approaches both within and without the classroom. Last spring, he partnered with the DORCAS International Institute of Rhode Island as a part of his engaged scholarship course on migrations and refugee movements, encouraging students to take a holistic, interdisciplinary, and engaged approach to archaeology in the modern world. In addition to connecting with immigrant and refugee support organizations in anticipation of creating a final project that “confront[s] real life situations and merge[s] scholarship with activism,” the class had the opportunity to engage via videoconference with migrants, activists, and other advocates on the Greek island Lesvos.

Recently, Dr. Hamilakis has worked extensively with NGOs and refugee advocacy groups on Lesvos, curating the exhibit Transient Matter: Assemblages of Migrations in the Mediterranean, which opened in February at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. He brings to the museum a collection of everyday objects and art from the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos in a thought-provoking display made possible in part through a collaboration with organizations including Wave of Hope for the Future, Lesvos Solidarity, Art Bridges, and Refocus Media Lab. Focusing among other things on materiality, borders, and critical pedagogy, Dr. Hamilakis’s approach emphasizes the importance of human connection and engagement within archaeological and anthropological practices. The Haffenreffer is closed until further notice, but you can watch the curator’s talk featuring Dr. Hamilakis and graduate students L. Darcy Hackley, Sherena Razek, and Ayşe Şanli here.

In addition to the Transient Matter exhibit, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology also recently unveiled a new free virtual teaching resource for PreK-12 educators. This Land is Home: A Seasonal Round in Native New England is a self-paced, virtual learning module that explores how the seasons shape traditional and contemporary Indigenous lifeways in New England. Developed by the Haffenreffer Museum’s Community Engagement Specialist Leah Hopkins (Narragansett) and Manager of Museum Programs and Education Leah Burgin, the module is an example of the great work being done at Brown to engage with prek-12 education in Rhode Island and beyond. Hopkins explains, "the module is a free and accessible resource that is crucial in bringing the voices of contemporary Indigenous populations directly into classrooms and homes, and was specifically designed to be flexible enough to cater to in-classroom learning as well as virtual learning."