Edward Said once noted that “exile is compelling to think about, but terrible to experience.” The Dispossessed, a collection of thoughtful essays and critical commentaries on the meaning of exile, reverberates with the significance of Said’s terse comment.
After a forward by actress and activist Liv Ullmann and an introduction by Peter I. Rose, the reader is offered a series of essays examining the experiences of refugees in various parts of the world, with particular attention to the disruptions caused by World War II. Contributors explore the politics of rescue, the dependency of the dispossessed, the role of key players and concerned citizens willing to extend themselves to provide safe havens and new opportunities for those forced to flee their homelands, and examples of the contributions of refugees, particularly refugee intellectuals, to their host societies.
Two unifying motifs run throughout the volume—the plight of displaced people, be they escapees, expellees, or hapless victims caught in the crossfire of other peoples’ conflicts, and the role of others in attempting to mitigate their predicaments.
The contributors were all faculty and fellows of a year-long colloquium “The Anatomy of Exile” at Smith College or participants in one of two conferences held in conjunction with it. They include Dierdre Bonifaz, Lâle Aka Burk, Polina Dimova, Donna Robinson Divine, Saverio Giovacchini, Ruth Gruber, Gertraud E.G. Gutzmann, Charles Killinger, Karen Koehler, Orm Øverland, Thalia Pandiri, Rubén G. Rumbaut, Richard Preston Unsworth, Krishna Winston, and Peter I. Rose.