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“Objects of Resilience”

Message from the Director

By Annie Isabel Fukushima, PhD, Director of the Initiative for Transformative Social Work, University of Utah College of Social Work

“Objects of Resilience” is a project by the Initiative for Transformative Social Work (ITSW) at the University of Utah College of Social Work. The exhibit went on display on April 10, 2017, and will remain for the duration of the spring 2017 semester. It tells a story of migration through the objects in one’s life. As conveyed by feminist scholar Sara Ahmed, “to be oriented is also to be turned toward certain objects, those that help us find our way. These are the objects we recognize, so that when we face them we know which way we are facing.” Therefore, ITSW wanted to learn more about how the objects of resilience and migration are collectively orienting our students, faculty, staff, community, and even a community beyond Utah.

This exhibit speaks to pressing issues surrounding migration. The context of “Objects of Resilience” is one that is tethered to both micro and macro contexts. The call for submissions was circulating in February 2017; a time when the president was signing executive orders calling for stricter immigration laws that targeted vulnerable and marginalized communities: Muslims, people from South West Asia/the Arab Worlds, the Middle East, undocumented, refugees, and anyone whose body was read as Other and ineligible for citizenship. The impacts of the macro context shaped the students, community, and University at a local level – it impacted people’s individual lives. This exhibit pushes back against the reductive, violent and oppressive narrative that exists in the United States that problematically reduces migration and migrant experiences to colonial thinking as “us versus them” through practices of deportation, incarceration, and erasure.

Receiving over 30 submissions, we found that the contributors told a rich story of migration. ITSW students originally hoped that it would tell a story regarding the refugee experiences. However, in reaching out to the community for stories surrounding displacement and migration, the submissions oriented us toward a broader story of migration. The stories of resilience and migration are multiple – in fact, to lock it into a thematic would be to limit the connections across images, experience, and context. Therefore, the exhibit is organized by last name. In addition, as the viewer moves through the various images, we invite you to connect with a story of multiplicity, heterogeneity, hybridity, transnational connections, with multiple localized contexts. Through the multiple, these photos and stories speak to a resilience that is not singular or monolithic. “Objects of Resilience” makes appeals to the viewer to inhabit the role of the witness, where this witnessing sees and facilitates actions that center migration as encompassing a range of experiences and humanities. These objects encompass the familiar and unfamiliar. Moreover, through the objects the hope is that the viewers will connect with the complex personhood that defines the migrant experience. “Objects of Resilience” speaks to the object that migrants are turned into, the objects that are in our lives, and the objectification occurring in dominant narratives. Anti-oppressive work includes seeing the complex personhood that migrants inhabit and the radical possibilities of the border crosser, border dweller, and the transnational subject.


WARNING: This exhibit contains strong language and images that some may find offensive. In an effort to respect the educational and cultural context in which this exhibit is displayed, as well as respect the rights of the individuals whose work is represented, the College of Social Work has taken measures to notify exhibit visitors of sensitive content prior to its viewing. The images and essays presented in this exhibit represent the stories and views of the individual artists and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Utah, the College of Social Work, its students and employees, nor the other individuals whose work is displayed.

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Last Updated: 12/12/23