The twentieth century was the century of the refugee. In 1999, the UN reported that one in 214 people on the planet—50 million in total—had been forced to flee violence and persecution. The massive displacement of 500,000 Spanish Republicans in 1939, spurring years’ worth of intense relief work by Lincoln vets and other Republican sympathizers, was the first major refugee crisis in the world to be widely covered by the visual media. The heart-wrenching images first delivered to the Western public by Capa, Seymour, LeChanois, and others have by now become all too familiar. But the questions they raised then have remained. How should we read images of suffering? Should refugees be portrayed as innocent victims or political actors? What should be done to help them? And is it possible to distinguish between humanitarian relief and political work?
This interdisciplinary symposium will feature seven speakers, more than an hour’s worth of rare documentary footage, and unknown images of Spanish refugees from the recently recuperated archives of Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and “Chim” Seymour. Sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, the King Juan Carlos Center, and the Program for Cultural Cooperation between Between Spain's Ministry of Culture & United States' Universities.
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