We hosted our fourth generosity conversation on Sunday, 26 April at 5 PM Central Time as an online webinar. The following participants discussed REFUGE with us.

Amanda Brobst-Renaud (joining from Valapariso, IN)
Heinz Klug
Karl Shoemaker
Lydia Zepeda (joining from Tacoma, WA)
Maria Saffioti Dale
Sara McKinnon


We discussed the following questions which were contributed by participants.

  • The international definition and system for managing refugees was developed in the aftermath of World War II. What works about it? What doesn’t work? What would the definition and system need to account for if it were developed today?
  • How do we think of refuge in a time when the post-World War II system of international recognition of refugees seems to have all but collapsed and when the very economic and climatic conditions driving migration are disqualifying those seeking a sustainable life from being recognized as deserving of refuge?
  • How should we think about protecting refugees in the face of hostile state activity?
  • Many countries’ treatment of refugees today is decidedly un-generous; would a “better” approach necessarily be founded on generosity? In other words, would refugee policy that was moral and legal be sufficient, or must it involve the “going beyond” that we understand as generosity?
  • Can we (humans) create refuge for others (humans, living things, etc.) before we experience refuge?
  • To whom do we owe our privilege to take refuge?
  • What is on my mind is how our food system depends on exploits low paid mostly immigrant workers who are risking their lives to feed us. The parallels to health care in this Covid-19 crisis are striking-they are risking their lives without the protections they need. I am also so worried about those in detention.
  • How has Covid-19 changed the ways that we think about refuge?

The conversation was certainly awkward but again deeply interesting. It felt like a good final (so far) discussion topic for this series in part because it emphasized the social dimension of the question of generosity. We were again humbled by the knowledge and insight of our participants. Listening in were friends and strangers from We were witnessed by people from near and far (including folks in New Zealand and Australia, Italy, other US states, and Madison.

Maria talking to the camera and holding an image of a plate


The following art works were selected by the Chazen staff specifically for the theme of REFUGE. Click on the images to view in the museum’s online catalog.

a woman in a head covering holding a photograph of a young man in front of her face
Larry Towell (Canadian, b. 1953)
Shati Refugee Camp, Gaza 1993
a blue ranch house standing on a pair of human legs
Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949)
Blue House, from the Food, Clothing & Shelter Portfolio 1996
drawing of a woman holding a baby under a fallout shelter sign
Raphael Soyer (American, b. Russia, 1899 – 1987)
Untitled (Mother and Child in Fallout Shelter) n.d.
engraving of the birth of jesus, with a shepard showing the baby to a sheep
Gianantonio Faldoni (Italian, 1690 – 1770)
Nativity 1735

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