A fierce debate rages today over what role the United States should play in the world’s nearly unprecedented refugee crisis. The issue is animated by a century of U.S. refugee aid initiatives, but ironically one we know relatively little about. University of Cincinnati History professor Stephen R. Porter uncovers this fascinating history in a public lecture. U.S. refugee affairs, he argues, once helped to shape the rise of the United States as a major world power while simultaneously revealing and reweaving America’s social and political fabric at home. The diverse array of people behind these activities typically shared a desire to portray the United States as an exceptional, benevolent world power whose objects of concern might potentially include any vulnerable people across the globe. Then, as now, these Americans wrestled with what responsibility their remarkably powerful country had to the world’s displaced and dispossessed.
Associate Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati, 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 collaboration of state and non-state actors in innovating strategies to manage humanitarian dilemmas.