Photo of Laura Madokoro

Laura Madokoro

Associate Professor - 19th and 20th century, Pacific World, history of migration, refugees and humanitarianism, settler colonialism, international history, Active History

Degrees:MA (University of Toronto), 2000; PhD (University of British Columbia), 2012
Office:426 Paterson Hall

Specialization by time period:

1900 – Today

Specialization by geographical area:

North America


Laura’s research explores various facets of the history of refugees and humanitarianism. She is especially interested in questions relating to settler colonialism, human rights and race. Her current SSHRC-funded research explores the history of sanctuary in Canada from the 17th century to the present, with a focus on post-Confederation sanctuary practices among a variety of religious and secular communities. Her plan is to eventually build towards a larger translocal history of sanctuary among white settler societies.

A native of Quebec’s Eastern Townships, Laura rambled off along a series of different paths, including a teaching gig in Japan and a stint as an archivist at Library and Archives Canada, before making a return to academic life in 2007. She completed her PhD in History at the University of British Columbia in 2012 with support from SSHRC and the Trudeau Foundation and spent the following year with the History Department at Columbia University as a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow. From 2014 to 2019 she was a faculty member with the Department of History and Classical Studies at McGill University.

Laura is the author of Elusive Refuge: Chinese Migrants in the Cold War (Harvard University Press, 2016), which documents the experience of Chinese refugees during the cold war and the politics of exclusion and humanitarianism among the white settler societies of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Elusive Refuge was recognized with the Association of Asian American Studies’ Best Book in the Social Sciences for 2018, the Chinese Canadian Historical Society’s Ed Wickberg Prize and the 2016 Mershon Center Furniss Book Award. In addition to this major work, Laura is the author of a number of articles related to the history of migration and humanitarianism. She has published widely, including in Photography and Culture, Social History / Histoire Sociale, the Journal of Refugee Studies, the Canadian Historical Review, the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association and the Urban History Review. She is also co-editor of the Dominion of Race: Rethinking Canada’s International History (UBC Press, 2017), in which she also authored a history of Canada’s ambivalent relationship to the international refugee regime. In a related vein, she is a co-investigator with the Landscapes of Injustice project on the history of Japanese Canadian property dispossession in the Second World War as well as a co-investigator with the Local Engagement Refugee Research Network (LERNN) at Carleton University.

As someone who cares deeply about the political implications of the historical craft, particularly as they relate to contemporary events, Laura has also contributed a number of comment pieces to the Globe and Mail, the National Post and

Laura is currently supervising a number of MA and PhD students and welcomes graduate student applications on topics related to the history of refugees, migration, humanitarianism and settler colonialism.

Selected publications:

Elusive Refuge: Chinese Migrants in the Cold War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016.

Dominion of Race: Rethinking Canada’s International History. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 2017. Co-edited with Francine McKenzie and David Meren.

“Peril and possibility: A contemplation of the current state of migration history and settler colonial studies in Canada,” History Compass 17(1) (2019): 1-8.

“On future research directions: Temporality and permanency in the study of migration and settler colonialism in Canada,” History Compass 17(1) (2019): 1-6.

“L’émergence du Canada sur la scène international” in Les enjeux politiques contemporains: Perspectives canadiennes edited by Jeremie Cornut, Aude-Claire Fourot, Nicolas Kenny and Rémi Leger. Montréal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2019.

“The Politics of Sanctuary: John Surratt, the Catholic Church and the US Civil War,” in Undiplomatic History: The New Study of Canada and the World edited by Phil Van Huizen and Asa McKercher. Montreal – Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019.

“Contested Terrain: Debating Refugee Admissions in the Cold War” in A Nation of Immigrants Explained: Immigration Policy, American Society, and the World from 1924 to 1965 edited by Maddalena Marinari, Madeline Hsu and Maria Christina Garcia. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2018.

“Women at Risk: Globalization, Gendered Fear, and the Canadian State,” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal (2018): 1-14.

“A Decade of Change: Refugee Movements from the Global South and the Transformation of Canada’s Immigration Framework” in Canada and the Third World: Overlapping Histories edited by Karen Dubinsky, Sean Mills and Scott Rutherford. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016.

“Transactions and Trajectories: The Social Life of Chinese Migrant Photographs,” Photography and Culture 8(3) (2015): 325-344.

“Handprints in the Archives: Exploring the Emotional Life of the State,” Histoire Sociale / Social History 48(96) (2015): 25-43.

“Global Displacements and Emplacement: The Forced Exile and Resettlement Experiences of Ethnic Chinese,” with Elaine Lynn-Ee Ho and Glen Peterson, Introduction to the Special Issue of Journal of Overseas Chinese 10(2) (2014): 131-136.

“From Settler Colonialism to the Age of Migration: Archives and the Renewal of Democracy in Canada,” Archivaria 78 (2014): 153-160.

“Surveying Hong Kong in the 1950s: Western Humanitarians and the ‘Problem’ of Chinese Refugees,” Modern Asian Studies 49(2) (2014): 493-524.

“Family Reunification as International History: Rethinking Sino-Canadian Relations after 1970,” International Journal 68 (2013): 591-608.

“Seeing Migrants, Selecting Refugees: A Historical Study of Chinese settlement in Canada and New Zealand,” UNHCR New Issues in Refugee Research, Research Paper No. 252 (January 2013).

“Borders Transformed: Sovereign Concerns, Population Movements and the Making of Territorial Frontiers in Hong Kong, 1949–1967,” Journal of Refugee Studies 25(3) (2012): 407- 427.

“Social Justice, Rights and Dignity: A Call For a Critical Feminist Framework,” with May Chazan, Trudeau Foundation Papers 4(2) (2012).

“‘Slotting’ Chinese Families and Refugees, 1947-1967,” Canadian Historical Review 93(1) (2012): 25-56.

“Chinatown and Monster Homes: The Splintered Chinese Diaspora in Vancouver,” Urban History Review / Revue d’histoire urbaine XXXIX(2) (2011): 17-24.

“Good Material: Canada and the Prague Spring Refugees,” Refuge: Canada’s Periodical on Refugees 6(1) (2009): 161-171.

“Not All Refugees Are Created Equal: Canada Welcomes Sopron Students and Staff in 1956,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 19(1) (2008): 253-278.