Photo of Laura Madokoro

Laura Madokoro

Associate Professor - migration, humanitarianism, settler colonialism, and 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, Asia


Laura’s research explores various the history of migration, with a particular focus on refugee history and the history of 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. As a result of this initial project, she is now at work on a history of sanctuary in urban contexts and is exploring the nature of sanctuary practices amongst different Indigenous communities. Additionally, in early 2021, Laura received an Early Researcher Award to begin work on The Disaster Lab, which explores the history of disasters, humanitarianism and migration in Canada.

Born in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, Laura rambled off along a series of different paths, including museum work in Kenya, teaching in Japan and an archivist position at Library and Archives Canada. She return to academic life in 2007 and completed her PhD in History at the University of British Columbia in 2012 with support from SSHRC and the Trudeau Foundation. She 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.

As someone who cares deeply about the political implications of the historical craft, particularly as they relate to contemporary events, Laura has contributed a number of comment pieces for a variety of media outlets and sites such as The Conversation. She is a member of the editorial collective at, a member of the Critical Race and Migration Studies Collective and co-director of Histoire Sociale / Social History, Member of the Active History, Editorial Collective and Critical Refugee and Migration Studies Canada

Project Lead, Sites of Sanctuary and The Disaster Lab

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

Selected publications:

“Whither the refugees? International organisations and “solutions” to displacement, 1921-1960,” with Megan Bradley, Merve Edilman and Chritopher Chanco, Refugee Studies Quarterly (2022),

“Eurocentrism and the International Refugee Regime” in the Journal of Modern European History (February 2022),

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

““Oh, Weldon Chan! Where are you hiding?” BC Studies 209 (Spring 2021): 37-62. 

““Nothing to Offer in Return”: Refugees, human rights and genocide in Cambodia, 1975-1978,” International Journal 75(2) (Spring 2020): 220-236,

““From Citizens to Refugees”: Japanese Canadians and the Search for Wartime Sanctuary,” Journal of American Ethnic History 39(3) (Spring 2020): 17 – 48.

“Exclusion by Other Means: Medical Testing and Chinese Migration to Canada, 1947-1967,” Histoire Sociale, Social History 52(105) (2019): 155-170.

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.

Recent Supervisions

MA Projects

Gureena Saran, “Motherland – Mother Hand”: Exploring Identity, Community & The Collaborative Artistry of South Asian Women in Abbotsford, British Columbia,” (Public History MA, co-supervision with Dr. James Opp), 2021

Marvin Phung, “Constructing Canadian Multiculturalism Through the Annual Reports on the Operation of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, 1988-2022,” (co-supervision with Dr. Dominique Marshall), 2023

Samantha Holmes, “Beyond the Computer Centre: Exploring How Digital Resources Could Support Increased Accessibility to Records and Community Memory on the SGWU Student Occupation,” (Public History MA, co-supervision with Dr. Audra Diptee), 2022

Basma Saad, “The Representation of Iraqi Muslim Women in the Globe and Mail from 1980 to 1995,” (co-supervision with Dr. Susan Whitney), 2022

Valerie Wood, Vee in Between and “Illustrating Adoption: The Making of Vee in Between,” (Public History MA, co-supervision with Dr. David Dean), 2021