Professor Noam Chomsky’s visit to the UNU Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility (UNU-GCM) in Barcelona provided an opportunity to exchange with one of the world’s preeminent intellectuals. During two public events organised by UNU-GCM, Prof. Chomsky provided a critical analysis of contemporary international challenges, particularly in relation to migration.
On 5 November, Prof. Chomsky gave the 2016 Annual Guest Lecture on “Crises of Immigration” to an audience of over 1,400 people at Palau de Congressos de Catalunya. UNU-GCM also hosted a graduate masterclass for a smaller audience of 200 participants on 7 November at Sant Paul Modernist Site, with reflections on his work by Prof Paula Casal (University Pompeu Fabra) and Dr Paul Bou-Habib (University of Essex).
Prof. Chomsky opened his lecture by arguing that “Pope Francis captured the essence of ‘crises of immigration’ in simple words: ‘migrants are not a danger — they are in danger.’” He discussed how such crises are in fact moral crises in wealthy Western states, noting that those countries with the least responsibility for creating refugees are those handed the most responsibility for welcoming them. For example, in Lebanon some 40% of the population are refugees; in comparison, Western countries can surely do more. Prof. Chomsky offered a rich analysis of historical examples of forced migration and displacement, and the painful and enduring legacies of colonialism, slavery, and military intervention by powerful states, which are at the very roots of the challenges that we face today.
During the graduate masterclass, questions posed by Prof. Casal, Dr Bou-Habib, and the attendees gave Prof. Chomsky the opportunity to delve into concepts in a more theoretical way. Prof. Chomsky linked his work on linguistics to his commitment to human rights by discussing the parallels between a universal linguistic grammar and a universal moral grammar.