Narratives of Migration



Course Description:

Migration is a journey, and a journey makes for a story. Whether it is a story of dreams and successes, of struggling with physical and emotional challenges, of traumatic pain suffered by refugees from war-torn regions, of mixed emotions that accompany discovery and loss, or of some combination of these, the story of migration is always captivating because it touches on things deeply important to all of us as humans: home, family, belonging, identity. In this course, we will explore narratives, or stories, of migration, as told by refugees and immigrants from across the world, through different media: written, spoken, photographed, constructed digitally on social media. Narratives as texts are of great interest to a number of disciplines, including literature, cultural studies, linguistics, anthropology, psychology, and sociology, because studying them allows us to examine how people make sense of their lived experience. This course approaches narratives of migration primarily from the perspective of sociocultural linguistics and discourse analysis, but we will refer to other scholarly traditions as well, such as literary criticism and cultural studies, to explore the interdisciplinary nature of narrative research.

Throughout the course, we will also think about different ways of defining a narrative, about what distinguishes it from other forms of discourse or other types of texts, and about new forms that narratives can take in the age of globalization and in the multimodal, translocal contexts of social media.

This is a Service-Learning course: students will engage in a mentoring relationship with an immigrant student in a Durham high school, and together produce (through writing or multi-media) a migration narrative from the mentee’s community.

Course requirements:

  • Weekly blog posts about the Service-Learning component of the course, linking it to class materials
  • Two midterm papers, 5-6 pages
  • Final research paper, 8-10 pages
  • Service-learning: minimum 20 hours per semester. Students will be placed in a mentoring relationship with immigrant high school students in Durham. They will work together to collect and present a narrative from the high school student's community.

About Professor Baran:


My main research interests lie in the area of language, identity, and migration. I am particularly interested in how migrant identities are formed and enacted through discourse and linguistic practices, such as code-switching and translanguaging. My recent book, Language in Immigrant America, is an interdisciplinary examination of language as a site for the contestation of the meanings of “immigrant” and “American” identities, and argues that these two categories have always been overlapping, conflicting, fluid, and mutually constitutive, as well as formed in the context of multilingualism - and not, as is often assumed, English monolingualism - as the American sociocultural reality since the earliest European settlements. 

My current project focuses on narratives of migration and belonging among former fellow refugees, and on narratives and discourse on social media. My other interests include language and emotion, specifically the experience of living "in a second language" and of translating the self, and the development and use of hybrid language varieties such as Spanglish. I am also continuing my earlier work, building on my PhD research, on the sociolinguistics of Taiwan Mandarin.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Harvard University 2007

  • M.A., Harvard University 1999