The United Nations University Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility (UNU-GCM) recently invited world-renowned professor Noam Chomsky to Barcelona to impart the institute’s Annual Guest Lecture. Without a doubt, Chomsky’s critical analysis of contemporary international challenges, particularly in relation to migration, left a mark on the city.
Addressing over 1,400 people, Professor Chomsky gave a lecture entitled “Crises of Immigration”, a rich analysis that began by reiterating Pope Francis’ words “Migrants are not a danger – they are in danger” as the essence of the “immigration crisis”. He argued that such crises are in fact moral crises in wealthy Western states, noting that those countries with the least responsibility for creating refugees are those handed the most responsibility for welcoming them.
For example, in Lebanon some 40% of the population are refugees, and in comparison Western countries can surely do more. Professor Chomsky offered historical examples of forced migration and displacement, and the painful and enduring legacies of colonialism, slavery and military intervention by powerful states, which are at the very roots of the challenges that we face today.
During his visit, Professor Chomsky gave a Graduate Masterclass at the Art Nouveau Site to an audience of 200 people. On this occasion, he was accompanied by Professor Paula Casal, University Pompeu Fabra and Dr. Paul Bou-Habib, University of Essex, who shared their reflections on his work and posed questions for debate.
The Masterclass afforded Chomsky the opportunity to delve into concepts in a more theoretical way. Among other issues, the professor linked his work on linguistics to his work on human rights by discussing the parallels between a universal linguistic grammar and a universal moral grammar.
At Sant Pau, Chomsky also detailed his justification for Western states having a responsibility to refugees as partly due to their ability to help, and partly due to their culpability for creating situations that have produced refugees in many regions of the world throughout history. Moreover, he argued that, through this lens, the distinctions between political, environmental and economic refugees and migrants break down. He raised the specific example of Bangladesh in this context, and spoke about an imminent refugee crisis in South Asia as a result of climate change.
Still, he believes there is hope for the future, instructing individuals to take advantage of the freedom to inform themselves, discuss and take collective action.
This article is an adaptation of a news piece published on the UNU-GCM website. You may read the original write-up here.
The full text of Professor Chomsky’s lecture can be downloaded.