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Barbara Harrell-Bond, OBE, Emerita Professor and founding Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, 1932-2018

It is with tremendous sadness that we announce that Barbara Harrell-Bond passed away yesterday morning, 11 July 2018, in her Oxford home surrounded by her family.

Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, OBE, Emerita Professor, was a legal anthropologist who founded the Refugee Studies Centre in 1982 and directed it until 1996. Prior to this she conducted research in West Africa from 1967-1982, while employed by the Departments of Anthropology, University of Edinburgh & University of Illinois-Urbana, the Afrika Studiecentrum in Leiden, and the Faculty of Law, University of Warwick. On her retirement from the RSC, she conducted research in Kenya and Uganda (1997-2000), and was Honorary Adjunct Professor at the American University in Cairo (2000-2008). She wrote the seminal text Imposing Aid: Emergency Assistance to Refugees in 1982.

An unflinching advocate of legal aid programmes for refugees and research and teaching in refugee studies in the Global South, Barbara was a driving force behind the establishment of a number of programmes in countries that included Uganda, Egypt, South Africa, and the UK. She was responsible for the information portal (Rights in Exile) that promotes legal assistance for refugees around the world. In 2013, Rights in Exile became the refugee rights component of the International Refugee Rights Initiative, which issues the monthly refugee legal aid newsletter, Rights in Exile.

Barbara was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2005 for services to refugee and forced migration studies. Barbara was also a recipient of the Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology awarded by the American Anthropological Association, and received the Lucy Mair Medal for Applied Anthropology in 2014. In July 2016, she was awarded an honorary doctorate at the School of African and Asian Studies (SOAS), University of London.

Far from being only an academic, the focus of Barbara’s life-long work was on refugee rights, and on keeping refugees at the centre of humanitarianism, issues which resonate even more deeply now, in an age when asylum and protections for refugees appear daily more endangered.

We were extremely pleased to welcome her to the Refugee Studies Centre very recently, on 20 June, for a special screening among family and friends of a documentary about her life, ‘Barbara Harrell-Bond: A life not ordinary’.

The Refugee Studies Centre mourns the loss of its founder, a visionary scholar and a guiding light for all who envisage a securer world for refugees.

More tributes to Barbara Harrell-Bond will be posted on our website in the coming weeks.