Fencing in God

Throughout the Spring 2013 term, Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University hosted Fencing in God? – Religion, Immigration, and Incarceration, a semester-long series of events focused on the ways in which religion and mobility intersect with immigration and incarceration. The series included three public lectures with scholars and activists and three related film-screenings, intended to facilitate and encourage long-term discussions around the topics of religion, immigration, and incarceration.  Event details are below.


Alyshia Galvez on Guadalupan New York: Activism and Devotion among Mexicans in NYC

Event-GuadalupanTuesday, February 12th, 2013, 6-7:30 pm
Room 707, International Affairs Building 420 West 118th St, NY

Alyshia Gálvez is a cultural anthropologist (PhD, NYU 2004) whose work focuses on the efforts by Mexican immigrants in New York City to achieve the rights of citizenship. This talk asks: How do spaces of devotion become spaces of activism? What role does faith play in the construction of civic spaces and civil society among recent immigrant groups? What are the limitations of these forms of social mobilization? This talk will explore a decade of Guadalupan-based devotion and activism for immigration rights among recent Mexican immigrants in New York City. Based on Gálvez’s extended ethnographic research in New York City and many years of activism and advocacy, she will reflect on the changing immigrant rights movement and its intersection with faith based institutions and organizations.

Fencing in God Film Screening: Sin Nombre

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013, 6 pm- 8 pm
614 Schermerhorn

Please join us for a screening of Sin Nombre, a 2009 film that tells two powerful intersecting stories of immigration through Mexico to the US border. The film follows following order to start a new life. Written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, and shot in Mexico, the film “is an elegant, heartbreaking fable, equal parts Shakespearean tragedy, neo-Western and mob movie but without the pretension of those genres.”

The screening will be followed by a discussion with Jackie Vimo, Director of Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition. Jackie has been be working for over 15 years in the field of public policy on a broad array issues, including:  HIV/AIDS, public health, public assistance, LGBTQ issues, housing, workers’ rights, racial justice, and immigration.  Jackie has done work in Argentina, where her family lives, and has held positions in New York and San Francisco social justice organizations such as Make the Road New York and The New York AIDS Coalition.  Jackie also teaches in the Political Science Departments at the City College of New York and the New School University.  She received a B.A. in Political Science from Barnard College, Columbia University and a M.A. in Political Science from UC Berkeley.  She is currently a Ph.D. candidate writing a doctoral dissertation about immigration detention and prisons at the New School for Social Research.

Fencing in God Film Series: Broken On All Sides

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013, 6pm-8pm
614 Schermerhorn

Please join us for a screening of Broken On All Sides. The documentary centers around the theory put for­ward by many, and most recently by Michelle Alexander (who appears in the movie), that mass incarceration has become “The New Jim Crow.” That is, since the rise of the drug war and the explosion of the prison population, and because discretion within the sys­tem allows for arrest and prosecution of people of color at alarmingly higher rates than whites, pris­ons and criminal penal­ties have become a new ver­sion of Jim Crow. Much of the discrimination that was legal in the Jim Crow era is today illegal when applied to black people but perfectly legal when applied to “criminals.” The prob­lem is that through subjective choices, people of color have been tar­geted at significantly higher rates for stops, searches, arrests, prosecution, and harsher sentences. So, where does this leave criminal justice? Through inter­views with people on many sides of the criminal justice system, this documentary aims to answer questions and provoke questions on an issue walled-off from the public’s scrutiny.

Religion and Incarceration: A conversation with Winnifred Sullivan and Julio Medina

Thursday, March 14th, 2013, 6-8 pm
1501 IAB, 420 West 118th St

Featuring a conversation between Winnifred Sullivan and Julio Medina, this talk will focus on religious mobility within confined spaces, focusing on religious conversion within the American penal system. This conversation will not only explore the complexities of conversion within prisons, but also the ways in which religious faith -and activism- are integral components of the modern prison-industrial complex. Moderated by Brett Dignam, Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School.

Fencing in God Film Series: Sentenced Home

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013, 6pm- 8pm
614 Schermerhorn

Please join us for a screening of Sentenced Home. Putting a human face on controversial immigration policy, SENTENCED HOME follows three young Cambodian Americans through the deportation process. Raised in inner city Seattle, they pay an unbearable price for mistakes they made as teenagers. Caught between their tragic pasts and an uncertain future, each young man confronts a legal system that offers no second chances.


Immigration Detention: Understanding the Intersections of Immigration and Incarceration

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013, 6 pm- 8 pm
Room 1512, International Affairs Building 420 W 118th St

Putting immigrant rights advocate Amy Gottlieb, scholar Douglas Thompkins, and journalist Jordan Flaherty in conversation, this round-table discussion focuses on the intersections of incarceration, immigration policies, and the practices of the carceral state. The panel discussion will be moderated by Rosemary Hicks, Visiting Scholar at the Bard Prison Initiative.

Jordan Flaherty is a journalist based in New Orleans and a television producer with Al Jazeera. He was the first writer to bring the story of the Jena Six to a national audience, and his award-winning reporting from the Gulf Coast has been featured in a range of outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Mother Jones, and Argentina’s Clarin newspaper. He has appeared as a guest on a wide range of television and radio shows, including CNN Morning, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Headline News, Democracy Now, RT, NPR’s News and Notes, Keep Hope Alive With the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and even the Alan Colmes Show on Fox News. He is author of the book Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six.

Amy Gottlieb is the Program Director of the American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program in Newark, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees through legal services, community organizing, and advocacy.  Amy also recently worked as a Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor in the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic and is currently an adjunct professor of Immigration Law there.  Amy graduated from Rutgers Law School – Newark in 1996, where she has taught immigration law as an adjunct professor.  She is past chair of the steering committee of the Detention Watch Network, and is a board member of La Fuente and Houses on the Moon Theater Company.

Rosemary R. Hicks is a Visiting Scholar at the Bard Prison Initiative. She received a doctorate in Religion from Columbia University in 2010 and was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Humanities at Tufts University from 2010-2012.  Hicks’ research examines how racial and religious minorities–particularly Muslims–have historically navigated U.S. Protestant-derived norms and Protestant-dominated institutions, and she has published in Religion, American Quarterly, the Journal of Islamic Law and Culture, and the Journal for Feminist Studies in Religion, among other places.

Douglas Thompkins is Assistant Professor of Sociology at John Jay College. He has done extensive research into the culture of violence within the prison community and the relationship between institutional social control policies and prisoner reentry. He is principle investigator on the research part of the CUNY’s Black Male Initiative, and works closely with students interested in conducting original research. He is currently conducting research which looks at barriers to successful reentry and the growth of the “Reentry Industry”; and, research investigating reasons for lower rates of participation in traditional social institutions such as education, by Black men, compared to other groups. He is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Prisoner Reentry Institute, serves on the Board of Directors for the Fortune Society, and is an Advisor to the Public Safety Initiative run by the Lifers Organization at the state prison in Graterford, PA. Professor Thompkins spent time in state prison and is a former member of a Chicago street gang.

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