The Museum of Modern Art, Floor T1, Theater 1
From left: Joseph Carens; Bouchra Khalili. Photo: Dustin Aksland/August; Samar Yazbek. Photo: Muhsin Akgun

“The border beneath which Syrians disappear in the night is just a hair’s breadth: no distance to speak of. People go in, people come out; they traverse this distance in the peaceful still of night, although few will find peace at their destination.”
—Samar Yazbek, The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria

Moroccan-French artist Bouchra Khalili; Syrian journalist, novelist, and activist Samar Yazbek; and Canadian philosopher Joseph Carens discuss the personal, political, and cultural ramifications of the current global refugee crisis. Khalili’s video installation The Mapping Journey Project (2008–11), currently on view at MoMA, documents the journeys of eight individuals who were forced by political and economic circumstances to leave their homes and travel illegally throughout the Mediterranean basin. Yazbek fled her homeland after taking part in the popular uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Her most recent book, The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria (2015), tells the story of her dislocation and subsequent returns to her homeland as an intimate observer. In his work as a political philosopher and commentator, Carens focuses on the ethical dilemmas surrounding immigration policies in North America and Europe. The conversation will be moderated by Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, who has written extensively on the historical conditions that shape modern conflicts in the region. This quartet of thinkers from different fields, each deeply immersed in the issues that emerge from what might be the 21st century’s defining challenge, will explore how forced migration transforms traditional ideas of citizenship, nations, and boundaries.

In advance of the conversation, MoMA curator Leah Dickerman shares helpful references on the refugee crisis and the event’s participants:

Joseph Carens
“What Gives Us a Right to Deport People? Joseph Carens on the Ethics of Immigration” in The Washington Post
“When Immigrants Lose Their Human Rights” in The New York Times

Samar Yazbek
Interview with Samar Yazbek by Lauren Pyott
“Samar Yazbek: ‘Syria has been hung, drawn and quartered’” in The Guardian

Bouchra Khalili
“Absorbing Displacement: Bouchra Khalili in Conversation with Dorothea Schoene”
“Portfolio: Bouchra Khalili” on

Bernard Haykel
“The Political Failure of Islamic Law”
“Battle Lines” in The New Yorker

“How to Help in a Global Refugee Crisis,” by Tara Siegel Bernard, in The New York Times

Tickets are free, but advance registration is required. Space is limited. A limited number of standby tickets may be available on site.

This event will be live-streamed. This event will have real-time captions accessible on any Internet-connected smartphone or tablet. Connect to free MoMA WiFi to access real-time captions on your device.

Submit your questions in advance on Twitter using #CitizensBorders.

Organized by The Museum of Modern Art, in cooperation with the Council on Foreign Relations.

This conversation is part of Citizens and Borders, a series of discrete projects at The Museum of Modern Art related to works in the collection offering a critical perspective on histories of migration, territory, and displacement.

This Citizens and Borders conversation is made possible by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation.