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Workshop | Refugees and the (Global) Cold War

Oct 29, 2021 - Oct 30, 2021

This international workshop, hosted by the Research Unit ‘Borders’ of the Cluster of Excellence ‘Contestations of the Liberal Script’ (SCRIPTS), brings together established and emerging scholars to chart the intersection between refugee history and Cold War history. To attend, please contact the organizer Dr Bastiaan Bouwman (sebastiaan.bouwman@fu-berlin.de).

The most well-known connection between refugee history and Cold War history is the figure of the political refugee fleeing from the socialist East to the democratic West. As recent research in both areas has highlighted, however, forced displacement and Cold War competition were global phenomena. While postwar international refugee law, as manifested in the 1951 Refugee Convention, centered on European anticommunist refugees, ongoing crises of displacement beyond the West, in for instance Korea or resulting from the Chinese Civil War, and later in Vietnam, were also shaped by the Cold War. Furthermore, conflicts of decolonization in Southern Africa and elsewhere led to deep tensions – not least among European actors – between Cold War alignment and a rising politics of humanitarianism that pursued impartiality. Superpower interventions in the Global South more generally – for instance in Central America by the United States or in Afghanistan by the Soviet Union – combined with regional political dynamics to both contribute and respond to refugee flows. By exploring the entanglement of refugee and Cold War history, the workshop will enable us to reassess established narratives about the globalization of both refugee politics and Cold War competition. It will contribute to ongoing efforts at writing the transnational history of the Cold War and integrating refugee history into international history broadly construed. And finally, it will enable analysis of the continuities and discontinuities between Cold War and post-Cold War displacement.

Attending the workshop

The workshop will take place from 29-30 October 2021 at the Freie Universität in Berlin, Harnack-Haus, Ihnestraße 16-20, 14195 Berlin. A limited number of people can attend in person.