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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.

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.

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).