Benjamin N. Lawrance

Benjamin N. Lawrance

The Hon. Barber B. Conable, Jr. Endowed Chair in International Studies honors the late Rochester-area politician and diplomat, Barber Conable, 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.



About Benjamin Lawrance:

I studied at Stanford University and University College London, and my research interests include comparative and contemporary slavery, human trafficking, cuisine and globalization, human rights, refugee issues and asylum policies.

My recent book, Amistad's Orphans: An Atlantic Story of Children, Slavery, and Smuggling (Yale 2014) examines West African child smuggling in the 19th century. Among my other recent works are those examining asylum, refugee issues, expert testimony, historical and contemporary trafficking in women and children in Africa. My essays appear in the Journal of African History, Biography, Slavery & AbolitionAfrican Economic History, Anthropological Quarterly, Cahiers d'Études Africaines, and the African Studies Review, among others.

Along with Bill Moseley, I am Program Committe Co-Chair for the 59th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association in Washington DC in November 2016. Our theme is: "Imaging Africa at the Center: Bridging Scholarship, Policy, and Representation in African Studies."

I am often invited to consult on the contemporary political, social, and cultural climate in various countries West Africa. I have served as an expert witness for over three hundred petitions by West African migrants in the U.S., Canada, the U.K, the Netherlands, Israel, and many other countries, and my opinions have featured in appellate rulings in the U.S. and the U.K. I have has served as a consultant on asylum and refugee issues to the US Department of State, the National Security Agency, the Japanese UNHCR, the World Bank, the Austrian Red Cross, the Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada, and the US Department of Homeland Security. Requests for assistance with refugee, asylum, or migrant-related issues may be sent directly by email. I generally require a minium of between two and four months advance notice of requests.

I am also happy to engage with the press on matters related to Africa, particularly West Africa, trafficking, asylum, refugees, migration, public services, citizenship/nationality, and issues pertaining to children. Please contact the RIT Press Office directly. Examples of my recent press engagements include:

My research has been made possible with national and international awards from various agencies and institutions, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, and fellowships at Yale University, Harvard University, the University of Notre Dame, the Rotary Foundation, and the inaugural University of California President's Fellowship in the Humanities.

My endowed chair supports 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.


Some of my publications include:


Citizenship-in-Question: Evidentiary Encounters with Blood, Birthright, and Statelessness in Global Comparative Perspective. With Jacqueline Stevens (Duke University Press, 2017), forthcoming.

Marriage by Force? Contestation over Coercion and Consent in Africa. With Annie Bunting and Richard L. Roberts (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2016), forthcoming

African Asylum at a Crossroads: Activism, Expert Testimony, and Refugee Rights. With Iris Berger, Tricia Redeker Hepner, Jo Tague, and Meredith Terretta. (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2015).

Adjudicating Refugee and Asylum Status: The Role of Witness, Expertise, and Testimony. With Galya Ruffer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Amistad's Orphans: An Atlantic Story of Children, Slavery, and Smuggling. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014)

Trafficking in Slavery's Wake: Law and the Experiences of Women and Children in Africa. With Richard L. Roberts (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012, "New African Histories" Series)

Local Foods Meet Global Foodways: Tasting History. With Carolyn de la Peña (New York: Routledge/Taylor Francis, 2012)

Locality, Mobility and 'Nation': Periurban Colonialism in Togo's Eweland, 1900-1960 (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2007)

Intermediaries, Interpreters and Clerks: African Employees and the Making of Colonial Africa. With Emily L. Osborn and Richard L. Roberts (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006) [Reprinted 2016].


"'Your poor boy no father no mother': 'Orphans,' Alienation, and the Perils of Atlantic Child Slave Biography," Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 36.4 (2013 Fall)

"Humanitarian Claims and Expert Testimony: Contestation over Health Care for Ghanaian Migrants in the United Kingdom," Ghana Studies Volume 15-16 (2013), Special Issue on "Health and Health Care."

Documenting Child Slavery with Personal Testimony: The Origins of Anti-Trafficking NGOs and Contemporary Neo-Abolitionism," in Benjamin N. Lawrance and Richard L. Roberts (eds.), Trafficking in Slavery's Wake: Law and the Experiences of Women and Children in Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012), 163-82.

"'All we want is make us free' – The Voyage of La Amistad's Children through the Worlds of the Illegal Slave Trade," in Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers, and Joseph Miller (eds.), Child Slaves in the Modern World (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2011), 12-35

"A 'Neo-Abolitionist Trend' in Sub-Saharan Africa? Regional Anti-Trafficking Patterns and a Preliminary Legislative Taxonomy," with Ruby P Andrew, Seattle Journal for Social Justice, Volume 9, Issue 2 (2011): 599-678

"Traversing the Local/Global and Food/Culture Divides," with Carolyn de la Peña, Food & Foodways Special Issue about "Food Globality and Foodways Localities," 19.1-2 (2011): 1-10

"From Child Labor 'Problem' to Human Trafficking 'Crisis': Child Advocacy and Anti-Trafficking Legislation in Ghana," International Labor and Working-Class History 78.1 (2010): 63-88

"Bankoe v. Dome: Traditions and Petitions in the Ho-Asogli Amalgamation, British Mandated Togoland, 1919-1939," Journal of African History 46 (2005): 243-67

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