So much of the world’s population has been ousted, expelled, cut loose, forced to flee or otherwise get moving, it’s surprising the planet hasn’t tilted off its axis.
In 2017 alone, almost 12 million people fled from violence, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center—and almost 19 million more were unmoored by catastrophic weather and other natural disasters. Those were just the people who remained within their home countries. According to the most recent tally published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there were also 22.5 million refugees in 2016—the highest level on record.
Within these mass-scale calamities are human-scale disorientations, and in the following pages we focus on some of them. In “The Other America,” Erika P. Rodríguez explores how the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is reshaping her identity as a Puerto Rican and as an American. In “The Resistance,” Wayne Martin Belger casts his artist’s eye on people who have been marginalized or scorned. In “The Rescuers,” Lucian Perkins travels to Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a French town with a remarkable tradition of helping refugees find themselves again.
Even when chaos and privation seem implacable, the human drive for dignity and validation abides.