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Human Capital: A History of Putting Refugees to Work

Date & Time

Feb. 12, 2024
4:00pm – 5:30pm ET


Online Only
Zoom Webinar


 The advent of internationalist refugee aid has long been told as an inspirational story of humanitarians fighting tirelessly for a system for that would recognize and guarantee the rights of displaced and dispossessed people. But in fact, modern refugee policy has long had a different goal: to make use of refugees as cheap workers in an emerging system of global industrial capitalism. In Human Capital, Laura Robson traces the century-long history of attempts to remake refugees as disposable migrant labor, revealing the deep-seated commitment to refugee exploitation and containment at the heart of a purportedly humanitarian international regime.

Laura Robson (PhD, Yale University) is the Oliver-McCourtney Professor of History at Penn State University and a recent Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. She has written and edited six books on Middle Eastern and global history, including The Politics of Mass Violence in the Middle East (2020) and Partitions: A Transnational History of Twentieth Century Territorial Separatism (with Arie Dubnov, 2019). She is the co-founder and co-editor of 

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is organized jointly by the American Historical Association and the Woodrow Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks its anonymous individual donors and institutional partner (the George Washington University History Department) for their continued support.


Ilana Feldman

Ilana Feldman

Professor of Anthropology, History, and International Affairs, George Washington University
Dane Kennedy

Dane Kennedy

Professor Emeritus, The George Washington University

Hosted By

History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program makes public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, facilitates scholarship based on those records, and uses these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more

Refugee and Forced Displacement Initiative

The Refugee and Forced Displacement Initiative (RAFDI) provides evidence-based analyses that translate research findings into practice and policy impact. Established in 2022 as a response to an ever-increasing number of people forcibly displaced from their homes by protracted conflicts and persecution, RAFDI aims to expand the space for new perspectives, constructive dialogue and sustainable solu­tions to inform policies that will improve the future for the displaced people.  Read more

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