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Howard Adelman© Centre for Refugee StudiesWe are greatly saddened to hear of the passing of Professor Howard Adelman, founder and former Director of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University, Canada.

Howard’s generous and insightful intellectual contributions on forced migration were woven into the life of the RSC over many years. The RSC’s first director, Barbara Harrell-Bond, acknowledged his help with her seminal work, Imposing Aid, in 1988, and he was a vital participant in many conferences organised by the Centre, particularly in the decisive years of the 1980s and early 1990s. He was a regular contributor to the Forced Migration Review and the Journal of Refugee Studies and he deepened academic understanding of forced migration with his own work in ways that hard to measure.

RSC Director, Professor Alexander Betts commented:

“Everyone at the RSC is saddened to learn of the passing of Howard Adelman. He was one of the pioneers of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies and a great friend of the RSC. He founded and directed the Centre for Refugee Studies, which in many ways became the sister institution to RSC during the Harrell-Bond years. His prolific scholarship on a huge range of themes including genocide, repatriation, and humanitarian ethics, as well as his creation of the journal Refuge have inspired generations of our students and faculty. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Former Director, Emeritus Professor Roger Zetter added: 

“With the passing of Howard Adelman, the world of refugee studies loses another of its pioneering scholars – Barbara Harrell-Bond died in 2018 and Gil Loescher in 2020. David Dewitt’s obituary for Howard on the website of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University Toronto, gives a full and affectionate account of his life and work.

Howard had close links with the RSC and I recall his significant presence in the Centre in the early day in the mid-1980's - both face-to-face, when he visited RSC and gave great encouragement to Barbara Harrell-Bond in her efforts to launch the RSC, and ‘virtually’, as a scholar whose research and advocacy helped to pioneer our field of study and gave credibility to the establishment of centres of scholarship here at the RSC in Oxford and, of course, more directly, the CRS at York. In particular, I valued Howard's experience, knowledge and support when I founded the Journal of Refugee Studies in 1988. He offered wise counsel in developing the scope and aims of the Journal and as a member of the first editorial advisory board; he gave valuable critical reflections as a referee for papers submitted to the Journal; and he was a contributing author - Howard was the author of the first paper in the first issue of the Journal, ‘Refuge or asylum: A Philosophical Perspective’ (pps. 7-19, 1:1, 1988). He made a distinctive contribution from many perspectives!”


Read the full obituary of Howard Adelman on the Centre for Refugee Studies’ website, which includes details of the funeral service on Thursday 27 July.


Photo courtesy of the Centre for Refugee Studies.