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Thu, 26 Oct 2017 05:08:32 EDT by webmaster, 3748 views
University of Cincinnati
History/Political Science paper by Porter, Stephen R (all papers)
Unintended Consequences of Refugee Aid: Cold War Politics, ‘Freedom Fighters’ and Jim Crow
When the Hungarian uprisings of late 1956 sent two hundred thousand people fleeing across national borders in Central Europe, the United States boasted a well-established, decade-old regime of overseas refugee relief and domestic refugee resettlement. Emerging from the intertwined humanitarian and geopolitical crises spawned by the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, the American system of refugee aid that took root in the middle to late 1940s was composed largely of a crisis-driven, ad-hoc series of programs. It employed the human and institutional resources of what I have elsewhere labeled a thoroughly hybrid blend of state and non-state (or “voluntary”) actors.
As elaborated in the first of two central claims my paper marshals, the nature of the U.S. refugee aid system would remain largely unchanged during its engagement with the Hungarian refugee crisis. The imperatives of Cold-War politics in the United States kept the role of the American state muted, particularly regarding refugee resettlement initiatives on U.S. soil, amid concerns that too robust a government role would spur red-baiting charges of government largesse in what were effectively social welfare programs for non-U.S.-citizens.
But as my paper’s second claim describes, the de-centralized, charity-heavy nature of that system came with a price, one a growing chorus of American critics of that system predicted. Poor management of refugee camps in Austria was credited with precipitating suicides and repatriation back across the Iron Curtain. Something similar happened on the American domestic front, as advocates of the U.S. Hungarian Refugee Program demanded the speedy resettlement of the forty thousand “Freedom Fighters” eventually admitted to the U.S., but were left to operate a program with insufficient resources and central oversight, particularly with regards to the state. The final portion of the paper follows the unintended and sometimes fascinating consequences of this confluence of phenomena through the case of one such Freedom Fighter who was unwittingly enrolled at a historically black university in the American Deep South, crossing the Jim Crow color line and sparking regional, national and international controversies that brought the limitations of America’s system of refugee aid into sharper relief.
Brief Professional Bio:
An Associate Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Stephen Porter’s research and teaching explore the intersection of humanitarianism, U.S. power, and American social and political life over the past century and a half. He is particularly interested in understanding changing conceptions of ethical responsibilities and rights as well as the ways in which a panoply of state and non-state actors have collaborated – productively and otherwise – in innovative strategies to manage humanitarian dilemmas wrought by war, persecution, upheaval, and other disruptive phenomena so emblematic of the modern world order. He has explored these issues in his book, Benevolent Empire: U.S. Power, Humanitarianism, and the World’s Dispossessed (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), and through published essays. At the University of Cincinnati, Porter is director of the International Human Rights Certificate, and co-chair of the Taft Center’s Human Rights Research Group. He is a former fellow of the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He has a PhD in History from the University of Chicago. email@example.com