Perfect Timing: the AHA’s upcoming annual meeting will focus on migration

Historians in the News
tags: AHA, migrants



... According to the UN Refugee Agency, 59.5 million people (1 in 122) are currently displaced or forced migrants in 2015. Over 51% of these refugees are children under 18. These numbers have been rising continually since 2011, but 2015 is the highest level ever recorded. Although the conflict in Syria is currently creating the most refugees (with Turkey hosting most of them), there are refugees on every continent.

With those figures in mind, it’s fitting that the 2016 annual meeting of the American Historical Association should be themed around “Global Migrations: Empires, Nations, and Neighbors.” In fact, media reports have often drawn direct parallels between the humanitarian crisis of World War II and today and have acknowledged that history can provide invaluable perspective on the current crisis.

At the AHA, two sessions will shed light on a frequently made historical analogy by reconsidering the situation of forced migrants after World War II: “Forced Migrations in Comparative Context” offers four case studies of displacement in the immediate postwar period, while “Zionism and Jewish DP Politics in the Aftermath of the Holocaust” looks at how Jewish displaced persons adapted existing political traditions in response to the experience of displacement.

Although World War II and its immediate aftermath offer a powerful template through which to think about the current crisis, historians would do well to cast a wide net both temporally and geographically. Because most countries require asylum seekers to prove that they are “political” refugees in order to be granted asylum, we might be interested in questions of how different kinds of movement are categorized. How will states cope with displacement caused by climate change, creating “environmental refugees”? How do some kinds of movement come to be deemed in need of humanitarian aid, while other kinds of movement become stigmatized? Certain sessions will seek to provide historical context for these questions. “Fellow-Feeling in an Imperial Age” will consider how humanitarian priorities developed in the British empire, while “Mobile Subjects and the Transformation of Law and Space Across 18th- and 19th-Century Eurasia” will offer perspectives on how a variety of imperial states re-conceptualized sovereignty and citizenship in response to long-distance migrations. ...




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