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Department of Sociology and Anthropology

The Hon. Barber B. Conable, Jr. Endowed Chair in International Studies

Hon. Barber B. Conable, Jr. Endowed Chair in International Studies
Held by:

Benjamin N. Lawrance

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.

Benjamin N. Lawrance holds the Barber B. Conable Jr. Endowed Chair in International Studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology. A graduate of Stanford University and University College London, his research interests include comparative and contemporary slavery, human trafficking, cuisine and globalization, human rights, refugee issues and asylum policies.

His forthcoming book, Amistad's Orphans: An Atlantic Story of Children, Slavery, and Smuggling (Yale 2015) examines West African child smuggling in the 19th century. His other books examine asylum, refugee issues, expert testimony, historical and contemporary trafficking in women and children in Africa. His 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.

Professor Lawrance is a legal consultant on the contemporary political, social and cultural climate in West Africa. He has served as an expert witness for over two hundred and seventy asylum claims of West Africans in the U.S., Canada, the U.K, the Netherlands, Israel, and many other countries, and his opinions have featured in appellate rulings in the U.S. and the U.K. He volunteers as a country conditions expert for Amnesty International USA.

He is 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 his recent press engagements include:

Professor Lawrance is the recipient of several national and international awards, including a faculty fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and fellowships at Yale, Harvard, the University of Notre Dame, the Rotary Foundation, and the inaugural University of California President's Fellowship in the Humanities.

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.

Sample Publications:


Amistad's Orphans: An Atlantic Story of Children, Slavery, and Smuggling. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015

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

Adjudicating Refugee and Asylum Status: The Role of Witness, Expertise, and Testimony. With Galya Ruffer. Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2014.

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

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

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 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006) with Emily L. Osborn and Richard L. Roberts [Reprinted 2014].


"'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

"Trading children: Mental health and physical rehabilitation of trafficked West African boys and girls," Wellcome History 38 (Summer 2008): 2-3

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

Use of material attributed to the Conable Chair website is permitted under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA) and the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) (unversioned, with no invariant sections, front-cover texts, or back-cover texts).