“A Vision of Revolution”

Exile and Deportation in Global Perspective


“Exile is a dream of a glorious return. Exile is a vision of revolution: Elba, not St Helena. It is an endless paradox: looking forward by always looking back. The exile is a ball hurled high into the air.”

― Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

Exile and deportation have a long, complex, and intertwined legacy. The forced removal of groups from their homelands and the coerced expatriation of individuals operate as two edges of a single political weapon. States and state agents throughout world history have employed deportation and exile. While the articulations of exile have changed over time, it remains relevant today as part of the international political landscape in both its state-sanctioned and self-imposed manifestations. And whereas forced deportations of entire communities clearly breach international law, regional, bilateral, and internal conflicts produce a steady stream of removals. Refugees, fugitives, asylum-seekers, expats, émigrés – the dual artifices of exile and deportation inhabit our lives today in myriad forms.

Historical and contemporary manifestations of exile and deportation constitute aliens/emigrés as illegal and expendable. Today, exile and deportation are situated at the transnational intersection of migration policy and criminal justice. Removal – a common legal euphemism for state-enacted deportation – has emerged as a deceptively benign technique for extricating problematic noncitizens and citizens from national and domestic contexts. The banality of such terms conceals the systemic violence visited on individuals, families, communities, and the very law itself.


April 2-4, 2015, Rochester, New York


“Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted. And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement.”

― Edward W. Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays


“You can’t undo a deportation.”

― Jonathan Shapiro, South African Cartoonist and Satirist



Convener: Benjamin N. Lawrance, Hon. Barber B. Conable, Jr. Endowed Chair of International Studies

The Conable Conference acknowledges the generous support of the Office of the Provost, the Program in International Studies in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and the College of Liberal Arts at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The Conable Endowment in International Studies honors the late Rochester-area politician and diplomat, the Hon. Barber B. Conable, Jr., who served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1964-1984) and as 7th President of the World Bank Group (1986-1991). The Conable Chair was made possible with a generous starting gift from the Starr Foundation.