A UNM Regents’ Professor will be spending a year at Stanford University, furthering her research on lost memories of refugees and the politics of commemoration.


Eleni Bastéa, UNM Regents’ Professor of Architecture, won a prestigious External Faculty Fellowship at the Stanford Humanities Center for the academic year 2019-20. She was selected from around 300 external applicants. Only nine fellowships are awarded each year, making this one of the most selective competitions in the nation. 

“A year at the Stanford Humanities Center is an exceptional opportunity for me,” Bastéa said. “I am excited about the opportunity to present my work at the Center and learn about the work of other SHC fellows.  This validation acknowledges the impact of my research, while also enhancing the visibility of UNM as a research institution.”

The residential fellowship allows humanities scholars to dedicate a year to research and writing, free from teaching responsibilities. Equally important are the daily interactions among the fellows, fostering new connections and new research.

During the fellowship year, Bastéa will work on her book-in-progress, Geographies of Loss. Her focus is on the memory of lost places among refugees and on the politics of commemoration. The book examines the role of political amnesia, necessary in the construction of peaceful, post-war political landscapes, and the willful destruction of memory through the destruction of monuments and memorials.

“The plight of refugees continues to form the focus of most scholarly studies. But we know very little of how these refugees remember the places they left behind and how those memories shape them,” Bastéa said. 

Philosophers have proposed that belonging in a stable environment contributes to the construction of one’s identity. Scholars of refugee studies contend that identity is affected by exile. But no one to date has examined both the experience of a stable environment and the experience of displacement. 

Bastéa proposes that the legacy of loss engenders not only nostalgia, but also a vital sense of strength. Until we consider the agency of refugees to draw strength from their lost worlds, we will continue to view them solely as voiceless collateral of history.

Studies on the politics of commemoration describe how governments construct sites of memory to support the homogenizing aims of the nation–state. Geographies of Loss looks at the refugees’ contradictory narratives that reflect the fluidity of one’s relationship with the built environment.