The Power of Life Stories: Situating the Narratives of Migrants and Refugees within the Context of the Law


Pavillon Chancellor-Day NCDH 316, 3644, rue Peel, Montréal, QC, H3A 1W9, CA

The Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law welcomes Professor Sonia Cancian for a talk on migration.

Lunch will be served, so kindly RSVP to oppenheimer [at]

Life stories and the law are intrinsically connected. We witness this daily both on a micro- and macro-scale, whether at a client’s meeting with her/his lawyer, in the courtroom, in the creation of binding precedents, in the diffusion of social and legal awareness, and among countless other contexts, in the introduction and implementation of policies and laws. As we consider the recent immigration crisis culminating as I write, what becomes especially evident is that the narratives of migrants and refugees—much like their counter-narratives--shape, and are shaped by, social and political awareness and the creation of policy and laws. What kinds of stories of refugees and migrants are we talking about here? How do they influence the individual and the broader communities, and vice versa? In what ways do the stories give insight to the shaping of policies and laws?  And, how do policies influence the lives of migrants and refugees today and in the past? This seminar will lead a discussion on life stories of migrants and refugees and their power (or not) within the world of policy-making and the law.

Dr. Sonia Cancian is an associate professor at Zayed University, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She is a migration historian with a special interest in letters and other personal narratives in the fields of gender studies, history of media, history of emotions, memory and the 19th and 20th century history of Canada and Italy.