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Migration and Borders

(Photo: Lupe Flores).

Four percent of the world’s population migrated across a nation-state’s border in 2019. Increased migration across borders is both a numeric and social fact. Is it because of state policy? We will explore why people migrate, and our method is ethnography (a personal and scientific story about crossing borders).

A couple of questions will guide our course:

  • What role does violence play in decisions to migrate across state borders?
  • What causes that violence?

We apply an anthropological lens using anthropologists’ primary tools, ethnography and the culture concept. In other words, we will travel from Sweden to Chicago and from Poland to Puerto Rico and to Northern Mexico as we interrogate the concept of culture to understand why people are on the move from political economic, feminist and post-modern perspectives. A few key themes in our conversation include: capitalism, nationalism, sexism, conquest, colorism, exclusion and empire.

Coursework Overview

The coursework for this Endeavor community involves taking a one-unit course in the fall semester and a half-unit course in the spring semester, both taught by Dr. Dorsey. 

Fall 2021 Semester

Spring 2022 Semester

ANTH 101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (1 unit)

IDST 190: Migration and Borders Seminar (.5 unit)

ANTH 101 satisfies a general education requirement for social analysis (FSSA), as well as a required course for prospective Anthropology majors/minors.

IDST 190 is a half-unit project based course part of the Endeavor program.

Specific Course Information

ANTH 101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Examines how people make cultural meaning out of their lives and explores the way in which anthropologists come to understand other people's construction of culture. Cross-cultural perspective on family, kinship, language, religion, gender and sexuality, and other aspects of social life.

IDST 190: Migration and Borders Seminar

The spring semester project will be driven by students' interests as they unfold in the fall semester. Depending on their interests, the project might be a traditional essay on narco-culture, an exhibition proposal and mini-exhibit, a collaboration with cultural arts institutions such as the Border Studies Archive or the emergent Latino Center at the Smithsonian, a series of essays and podcasts on borderlands music, a short documentary on women revolutionaries in the borderlands.

Faculty Information


Dr. Margaret Dorsey is Associate Professor of Anthropology.

Roadmap Short Course Information

As part of the Endeavor program, you will particiapte in the popular Roadmap to Success pre-orientation program, where you will take a short course led by Dr. Dorsey. 

Short Course Description: Migration and Borders

This short course welcomes you, a recent migrant to the University of Richmond, as you cross the border into university life.  Our intellectual expedition begins with an understanding that knowledge is as experiential and material as it is based in the brain. We journey through the core concepts (culture) and drivers of anthropology (the study of people) as we discuss meaning making and what inspires us to make meaning. As we exit one of the most challenging moments of our era, we will walk, talk, and contemplate how we want to be human and mold our future.