About the Project

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) has developed a national public education initiative aiming to change the public conversation about an important, yet difficult topic – migration and displacement. The public conversation on issues surrounding migration and displacement is often shaped more by ideology and rhetoric than by evidence, leading to policies and practices that harm individuals, families, and communities. AAA aims to change the public conversation, with the goal of ultimately impacting inequitable policies and practices through insights gained from anthropological research.

Anthropology draws from four fields of study: archeology, biological/physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. The use of qualitative and quantitative methods in anthropological research allows for rich and nuanced understandings of social processes, human behavior, and social organization. The holistic approach is what will allow us to build a movement for change that will inform state and federal policy reform. The American Anthropological Association is committed to public engagement, and we envision our new public education initiative as a significant step in educating public audiences on the realities and lived experiences of migration and displacement by individuals and families. Like the Race Project, we expect to ask people to look at migration and displacement through the multiple lenses of science, history, and lived experience.

Those who experience the public education initiative will begin to understand that migration is a fundamental part of their personal experience and one that they share with all humanity. Our public education initiative intends to promote balanced and nuanced scholarship about migration and displacement that will inform multiple audiences, from k-12 youth to the media to help reframe the news to U.S. policy makers at various levels to translate knowledge and inform legislative reform and more culturally sensitive messaging and implementation of policy and practices. Some of the important questions we would like to address are:

  • How long have people been moving around, and how do we know about population movements?
  • Why do people move? (e.g., economic and educational opportunities, religious freedom, forced/involuntary migration, environmental change)
  • What responses to migration have we observed through history and across cultures?
  • What happens to the people and cultures in places where people move?
  • What happens to the places where people move away?

The immediate outcomes that we anticipate for this project are increased contribution to and influence of the public discourse on migration and displacement. These outcomes are based on the model provided by the Race Project, which led to requests for partnering, technical assistance and expert consultation, as well as positive user feedback from the traveling exhibit. The long term outcomes that we expect are:

  • People realize that their story is part of a larger migration story.
  • People recognize commonalities among the stories of mobility.
  • People have greater empathy for the kinds of struggles that others experience.
  • People will begin to understand the relationship between global migrations and “home.”
  • People see how they create borders in their daily life.
  • People will begin to understand that migration stories are partially shaped by attitudes and misconceptions of the “other.”
  • People will realize that some migration experiences are filled with personal opportunities while others are affected by invisible power structures and inequalities.