From Barbarian Settlers to Humanitarian Resettlement: The Colonial Origins of the Early International Refugee Regime

April 17, 2019
Lecture at Arizona State University Tempe, Durham Language and Literature Building, Room 165
Speaker: Florian Wagner (University of Erfurt / GHI West)

The resettlement of displaced persons and refugees after World War II is predominately seems as a humanitarian effort. In this talk, however, I show that nineteenth century settler colonialist schemes shaped the practice of refugee resettlement after World War II. International and humanitarian organizations that resettled refuges after 1945 took classical settler schemes as an example and continued to use the colonial infrastructure of the nineteenth century. Focusing on these resettlement organizations, I argue that between 1945 and 1960m they perpetuated a settler colonial world order beyond the limits of established empires. This world order relied on supposedly outdated doctrines of social imperialism rather than humanitarianism. Sketching out personal and ideological continuities, I propose a new genealogy of resettlement, which can expose and partly explain the deficits of modern refugee policies.

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