Led by anthropologist, Rosalind Morris, the CGT project on Unsettlement aims to enable critical thought and a just response to issues that transcend the category of migrancy and the issues of border security. Beyond the false dichotomy of voluntary or forced movement, in areas where border regimes are mutating and climate change is precipitating profound demographic shifts, the project brings together scholars, policy makers, journalists and artists in forums that aim to inform and to foster new approaches to the challenges of our present and the future.

Project History

On Dec. 16, 2015, CGT member Rosalind C. Morris led a brainstorming session for a proposed CGT research project on a rigorous theoretical exploration of the concepts, questions and tasks of responding to the current and short-term future of migrancy. Estimates of the numbers of people presently displaced from their homes range from several hundred million to more than a billion. These ‘unsettled’ people may be stateless or without access to the securities that are tied to residency within a single political jurisdiction. Or they may be relatively autonomous actors who move temporarily but find themselves stranded from or disavowed by their home states. They may be ‘criminalized’ but exist beyond the reach of regulatory systems. They may be forcibly dislocated – due to existing or anticipated natural disasters – or they may be fleeing such efforts and other forms of coercion.

Many of the organizing concepts and ‘institutionalities’ through which we have previously addressed questions of migrancy need to be either radically rethought or abandoned. We need, for example, to rethink the presumptive oppositions between voluntary and involuntary movement linked to the distinction between political and criminal violence, and between temporary versus permanent migration. Related conceptions of right and of political sovereignty must also be interrogated.

The research project, Unsettlement, has convened groups of scholars in rigorous theoretical explorations of deep and multivalent responses to the current and short-term future of migrancy. It has also engaged cultural producers and artists who are addressing these issues, to open up our understanding of movement beyond mobility.

In Fall 2020, the project began convening groups of scholars, artists, critics and activists to discuss key issues, concepts and tasks of a regional and transregional nature. The goal is threefold: 1) to share and learn from each other about the issues of unsettlement as they have appeared within specific spaces and histories; 2) to confront and theorize the changing social, political and economic causes and responses to these issues as have refracted by the pandemic; and 3) to generate new and more adequate questions and ways of thinking about these issues. These meetings are intended to be starting points or extended and improvisational gatherings, born of shared interests and discoveries that we hope will emerge from the initial gatherings. The project will continue with a focus on the Indian Ocean region, the Americas, and Europe. In Fall 2021 or Spring 2022, we aim to gather all of the participants together in person, for a broad, comparative discussion about what we have learned in this process and to determine on that basis and in collective conversation, what new agendas we might wish to pursue together.

Learn more about the research proposal.

Featured Event

On the Edge of the Settled World” featuring Shahidul Alam, Carlos Chamorro, and Nikos Pilos, October 22, 2020. 

Past Events

Eight Ways of Thinking Unsettlement

March 4, 2021

Featuring Rosalind Morris, Euclides Gonçalves, Mpho Matsipa, Isabel Hofmeyr, Yvette Christianse, Achille Mbembe, and Johannes Machinya, and Sarah Nuttall

Insecure Zones: Reflections from Africa and the Indian Ocean

November 12, 2020

Featuring Rosalind Morris, Euclides Gonçalves, Mpho Matsipa, Isabel Hofmeyr, Yvette Christianse, Achille Mbembe, and Johannes Machinya.

On the Edge of the Settled World

October 22, 2020

Featuring Rosaline Morris, Carlos Fernando Chamorro Barrios, Nikos Pilos, and Shahidul Alam.

Image and Counter-Image: Dreaming Borders, Unthinking Migration

October 18, 2018

Featuring Rosalind Morris, Stefania Pandolfo, and Leila Kilani


Podcast | 8 Ways to Think About Unsettlement: Part 2

March 31, 2021

Featuring Rosalind Morris, Johannes Machinya, Sarah Nuttall, and Achille Mbembe

Podcast | 8 Ways to Think About Unsettlement: Part 1

March 25, 2021

Podcast | What can we learn from the men seeking gold and friendship in the mines of South Africa?

March 18, 2021

Featuring Rosalind Morris and Mpiwa Mangwiro