Social Practice of Human Rights 2021 conference
Over the past several decades, increasing numbers of academic researchers in anthropology, political science, sociology, and other fields have come to play important roles in immigration court hearings for asylum and withholding of removal. In the past decade in particular, specialists in Central America have increasingly served in this capacity, requiring familiarity with new genres of writing, coping and discernment mechanisms for the ethical and emotional challenges of the work, and skills to navigate the institutional and political complexities of the courts as well as systems of detention and deportation. As we learn to do this work, expert witnesses can benefit from mutual aid and meaningful dialogue with other witnesses and trusted immigration lawyers about practices and realities. While there is a lively and growing analytical literature on expert witnessing and some large academic associations have held workshops or panels on the topic at annual conferences, many of us long for a more focused and intentional space to reflect together, share our experiences and dilemmas, gain resources and contacts, and learn how to improve our practice collectively. We also need opportunities to hear from and dialogue with leaders in the communities most impacted by the dynamics of displacement.