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A podcast of this seminar is now available. 


Refugee studies rarely address historical matters; yet understanding ideas about sanctuary, refuge and asylum have long roots in both Western and Eastern history and philosophy. Occasionally the Nansen era of the 1920s is examined or the opening years of, say, the Palestinian refugee crisis are addressed. But by and large the circumstances, experiences and influences of refugees and exiles in modern history are ignored. This seminar attempts to contribute to an exploration of the past and to examine the responses of one State – the late Ottoman Empire – to the forced migration of millions of largely Muslim refugees and exiles from its contested borderland shared with Tsarist Russia into its southern provinces. The seminar focuses on one particular meta-ethnic group, the Circassians, and explores the humanitarian response to their movement both nationally and locally as well as their concerted drive for assisted self-settlement. The Circassians are one of many groups that were on the move at the end of the 19th century and their reception and eventual integration without assimilation in the region provide important lessons for contemporary humanitarianism.

about the speaker

Professor Dawn Chatty is a social anthropologist whose ethnographic interests lie in the Middle East, particularly with nomadic pastoral tribes and refugee young people. Her research interests include a number of forced migration and development issues such as conservation-induced displacement, tribal resettlement, modern technology and social change, gender and development and the impact of prolonged conflict on refugee young people.

Professor Chatty is both an academic anthropologist and a practitioner, having carefully developed her career in universities in the United States, Lebanon, Syria and Oman, as well as with a number of development agencies such as the UNDP, UNICEF, FAO and IFAD. After taking her undergraduate degree with honours at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), she took a Master’s degree in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies, the Hague, Netherlands. She returned to UCLA to take her PhD in Social Anthropology under the late Professor Hilda Kuper.

Following the award of a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship, Dawn spent the period October 2005–September 2007 researching and writing a manuscript on Dispossession and Forced Migration in the Middle East. The volume was published by  Cambridge University Press (May 2010) with the title Dispossession and Displacement in the Modern Middle East.

Professor Chatty was Director of the Refugee Studies Centre from 2011-2014. 

related content

Dawn Chatty People

Refugees, exiles, and other forced migrants in the late Ottoman Empire Publications 

The history of refuge News & Media