The Violence of Detention: Borders, Security, and the Search for Refuge

March 31, 2017

Friday, March 31, 9:00AM–6:30PM, Room 7000, SFU Harbour Centre

Co-sponsored by SFU's Institute for the Humanities, J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities, & Centre for Policy Studies on Culture and Communities (CPCC)

Joanne Brown Symposium on Violence and its Alternatives

This day-long Symposium will address the state of, resistance to, and connections between the egregious migrant detention processes in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S., focusing on efforts to change detention policy, support detainees, and alter the culture of policed borders in an era of increasing human mobility. Canada and the U.K., in particular, have no time limits on the extra-judicial detention of migrants, and the US has the largest detainee population in the world. There are more displaced people—and more detained migrants—now than at any time in history, and the numbers should only continue to grow, especially as the pressures of climate change and environmentally driven conflict escalate.

The day’s events feature panel discussions, a presentation about the “Refugee Tales” project in the U.K., and a workshop organized by members of End Detention Vancouver.


  • 9:00am: Doors open
  • 9:15am: Light Breakfast (provided)
  • 9:30am: Welcome and opening remarks
  • 10:00am–12:00pm: Robyn Maynard, Silky Shah, & Harsha Walia: Borders, Detention, and Racialization
  • 12:00pm–1:00pm: Lunch (provided)
  • 1:00pm–2:30pm: David Herd & special guests: The Refugee Tales
  • 3:00pm–5:00pm: Ayendri Perera: Detention Support workshop
  • 5:00pm–6:30pm: Reception (cash bar)


David Herd is a poet, critic, and teacher. His collections of poetry include All Just (Carcanet 2012), Outwith (Bookthug 2012), and Through (Carcanet 2016), and his recent writings on the politics of human movement have appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books, Parallax and Almost Island. He is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Kent, has worked with Kent Refugee Help since 2009, and is a coordinator of Refugee Tales.

Robyn Maynard is a black feminist writer and activist, author of the forthcoming book Policing Black Bodies: State Violence and Black Life (Fernwood Publishing, 2017). She is a frequent public commentator on racial profiling whose voice is featured frequently in local and national media including CBC News, CTV News, the Montreal Gazette, Vice Magazine, and APTN. Her writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Feminist Wire, Le Devoir, Briarpatch, Upping the Anti, Shameless! Magazine, the Dominion, Canadian Dimension, Atlantis Journal, 2bmag, and Canadian Women’s Studies Journal. 

Ayendri Perera is a Sri Lankan born activist and educator based in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. Her work centers on the use of liberatory pedagogies to foster critical analysis and to create radical educational spaces outside of the classroom. In the past she has coordinated community-based education programs such as Teach Outside the Box and Youth 4 Global Change, a social justice youth program dedicated to supporting emerging activists. She co-designed and adapted the Inequali-Tree, an analysis tool that unpacks the root causes of systemic issues and explores different tactics and strategies for movement building. Currently Ayendri is using her skills to develop workshops and dialogue spaces at UBC’s Centre for Community Engaged Learning.  

Silky Shah is the Communications Director of the Detention Watch Network (DWN), a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to reform the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system. In addition to her work with DWN, she co-produces Asia Pacific Forum, a pan-Asian radio show on Pacifica's WBAI 99.5 FM in New York.

Harsha Walia is a South Asian activist and writer based in Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish Territories. She has been involved in community-based grassroots migrant justice, feminist, anti-racist, Indigenous solidarity, anti-capitalist, Palestinian liberation, and anti-imperialist movements for over a decade. She is formally trained in law, works with women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and is the author of Undoing Border Imperialism (2013, 2014).