The Conable Chair in International Studies honors the late Rochester-area politician and diplomat, the Hon. Barber B. Conable, Jr., who served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1964-1984) and as president of the World Bank (1986-1991). The Conable Chair was made possible with a generous starting gift from the Starr Foundation.
The inaugural occupant of the Conable Chair is Benjamin N. Lawrance.
My research is situated at the dynamic interdisciplinary intersection of history, anthropology, and sociology, and focuses on international mobilities, including migration, smuggling, trafficking, and refugee movements. Over the past several years I have explored historical and contemporary slavery and human trafficking, the conditions of statelessness and deprivation of citizenship by refugees and asylum seekers, and the processes of asylum adjudication. My recent book, Amistad’s Orphans (Yale UP), examines the lives of six African children transported back and forth across the Atlantic, from Sierra Leone, via Cuba, the US, and back to Africa. My current research investigates how the lived experiences of refugees – as they navigate the asylum processes of industrialized countries and struggle to document and substantiate their traumatic narratives – influence, inform, or imperil the legitimacy of their refugee claims.
I have recently completed an edited collection documenting the experiences of "forced marriage" survivors in historical and contemporary Africa (with Richard Roberts and Annie Bunting). A second anthology almost complete explores struggles throughout the globe with citizenship documentation and nationality evidence (with Jackie Stevens). My research has been supported by awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council, and by fellowships from Yale University, Harvard University, the University of Notre Dame, and the Rotary Foundation. In 2009, I was an inaugural University of California President's Fellow in the Humanities.
Aside from my scholarship, I also serve regularly as a legal consultant, particularly for matters concerning contemporary Africa. I have served as an expert witness in over two hundred and fifty asylum claims of Africans in the U.S., Canada, the U.K, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Belgium, Switzerland, Russia, Italy, Austria, South Korea, and Israel. I particularly enjoy working pro bono with law school clinics and non-profits. My expert opinions have featured in U.S. appeal courts decision and rulings from the Queen's Bench in the U.K.
As the Conable Chair, I support several annual programs, including, the Conable Global Film Series; the Conable Distinguished Lecture Series; the Conable Career Development Seminar; and the Conable Conference in International Studies.