Laura Robson, "Human Capital: A History of Putting Refugees to Work" (Verso, 2023)


When Americans and other citizens of advanced capitalist countries think of humanitarianism, they think of charitable efforts to help people displaced by war, disaster, and oppression find new homes where they can live complete lives. 

However, as the historian Laura Robson argues in her book Human Capital: A History of Putting Refugees to Work (Verso, 2023), the history of the international refugee regime is much less noble than the self-representation of humanitarian organizations (and the global powers that fund them) would suggest. Robson shows how imperial powers, nation-states, global corporations, and intergovernmental organizations have sought to remake refugees into disposable migrant laborers whose exploitation would advance various imperial and state-building projects.

Laura Robson is a Professor of History at Yale University. Her recent books include States of Separation: Transfer, partition, and the making of the modern Middle East (2017) and The Politics of Mass Violence in the Middle East (2020).

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Geoffrey Gordon

Geoffrey Gordon holds a PhD in political science. Follow him on Twitter: @geofflgordon.
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