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Toward Communities of Resistance: Rethinking Citizenship, Migration, and Belonging in Northeast India


Friday, March 20, 2020 | 9:30–11:00 a.m.
School of Education, Whitney Auditorium


Coloniality and structural violence are crucially implicated in the precarious existence led by the vast majority of people in the global South. Communities denied of the “right to have rights” are engaged in fights to reclaim their lands, their place in the world, and often their very right to exist. Yet this fight implicates us all as we resist crisscrossing vectors of injustice from our different relations to precarity and (dis)placement. Drawing upon activist research in solidarity with communities fighting labels of “illegal immigrant” and state-sponsored crisis of citizenship in Assam (Northeast India), this talk will grapple with multiple dimensions of structural violence, from its colonial underpinnings to ongoing peoples’ resistance against it. Anchored in decolonial, women of Color, and transnational feminist perspectives, this participatory action research project documents social suffering in disenfranchised communities and explores creative and culturally meaningful pathways for decolonial resistance. Centering defiant voices of these communities-in-struggle, the talk will illustrate the need to rethink dominant conceptualizations of citizenship, migration, and belonging; in doing so, troubling hegemonic ideas of “inclusion” tethered to nation state membership as well as illuminating possibilities for alternative collective imaginaries.

Urmitapa Dutta is an associate professor in psychology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and a 2019 NCID scholar-in-residence. At UMass Lowell, she is also involved with several interdisciplinary programs: Gender Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, and Global Studies.

During her time at the University of Michigan, Dr. Dutta is interested in collaborating around the following areas: building communities of resistance (in academia and beyond); women's everyday activism; and decolonizing research and practice in the areas of violence and violence prevention, citizenship and community-based research and action.

A feminist activist scholar with an interdisciplinary training, her research program has a two-fold aim: to interrogate everyday violence, i.e., forms of direct, structural, and symbolic violence that become endemic to society and are no longer questioned; and, to develop community-engaged interventions that address everyday violence.

Working alongside communities in India and in the US, Dr. Dutta uses critical qualitative methodologies to elucidate and intervene in the linkages between everyday social suffering and oppressive structures by centering voices/experiences that are silenced by officially sanctioned narratives. The commitment to understanding and alleviating varied forms of oppression and exclusions inform her research, teaching, and service. Dr. Dutta has a PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Co-sponsored by the Department of Women's Studies.

The NCID Research and Scholarship Seminar Series features scholars who advance our understanding of historical and contemporary social issues related to identity, difference, culture, representation, power, oppression, and inequality. The series also highlights how research and scholarship can address current and contemporary social issues.