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Furniss Award Speaker Series
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Laura Madokoro
"On Refuge: The Politics of Race and Humanitarianism"
Thursday, November 08, 2018, 03:30pm - 05:00pm
Mershon Center for International Security Studies
1501 Neil Ave.
Columbus, Ohio 43201

Laura Madokoro

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Laura Madokoro is assistant professor of history and classical studies at McGill University. Her research explores various facets of the history of refugees and humanitarianism. She is especially interested in questions relating to settler colonialism, human rights and race.

Madokoro's current research, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, explores the history of sanctuary in Canada from the 17th century to the present, with a focus on post-Confederation sanctuary practices among a variety of religious and secular communities. Her plan is to eventually build towards a larger translocal history of sanctuary among white settler societies.

Madokoro is author of Elusive Refuge: Chinese Migrants in the Cold War (Harvard University Press, 2016), winner of the 2016 Mershon Center's Edgar S. Furniss Book Award. The book documents the experience of Chinese migrants during the Cold War and the politics of exclusion and humanitarianism among the white settler societies of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Elusive Refuge was also recognized with the Association of Asian American Studies’ Best Book in the Social Sciences for 2018, and the Chinese Canadian Historical Society’s Ed Wickberg Prize.

In addition to this major work, Madokoro is author of a number of articles related to the history of migration and humanitarianism. She has published widely, including in Photography and Culture, Social History / Histoire Sociale, Journal of Refugee Studies, Canadian Historical Review, Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, and Urban History Review. She is also co-editor of the Dominion of Race: Rethinking Canada’s International History (UBC Press, 2018), in which she also authored a history of Canada’s ambivalent relationship to the international refugee regime. In a related vein, she is a co-investigator with the Landscapes of Injustice project on the history of Japanese Canadian property dispossession in World War II.

As someone who cares deeply about the political implications of the historical craft, particularly as they relate to contemporary events, Madokoro has also contributed a number of comment pieces to The Globe and Mail, National Post and www.activehistory.ca.

Madokoro completed her Ph.D. in history at University of British Columbia in 2012 with support from SSHRC and the Trudeau Foundation and spent the following year with the History Department at Columbia University as a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow.


This talk explores the history of race and humanitarianism with a case study of American responses to refugees in Asia during the Cold War. It considers the politicized environment in which activism took place around refugees in Asia took place prior to the more familiar Indochinese refugee movements of the 1970s and considers the implications of these early efforts for contemporary discussions of refugee protection and assistance.

The Edgar S. Furniss Book Award commemorates the founding director of the Mershon Center and is given annually to an author whose first book makes an exceptional contribution to the study of national and international security.


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