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Laura Madokoro  - McGill University. Montreal, QC, CA

Laura Madokoro Laura Madokoro

Assistant Professor, History and Classical Studies | McGill University

Montreal, QC, CANADA

Laura's research focuses on the history of race, refugees and religious and secular humanitarianism.





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Laura Madokoro, McGill University McGill Talks Episode 2  Global Migration



Laura is a historian of global migration whose research explores the history of refugees, race and humanitarianism.

She is the author of Elusive Refuge: Chinese Migrants in the Cold War (Harvard University Press, 2016), which looks at how race influenced the character of the international refugee regime with particular attention to how it shaped the migration and resettlement of Chinese refugees to British white settler societies during the cold war.

Laura's work has also appeared in a variety of international and national academic journals including the Journal of Refugee Studies, the Canadian Historical Review, the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association and the Urban History Review.

Her current research, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, investigates the history of sanctuary in North America from the 19th-century to the present. The project explores how secular and religious offers of sanctuary enforced notions of deserving recipients and challenged the authority and legitimacy of the nation-state.

Industry Expertise (2)



Areas of Expertise (9)

Refugee and Human Rights Issues


Canadian History



Race Relations

Global Migration



Education (2)

University of British Columbia: Ph.D., History 2012

University of Toronto: M.A., History 2000

Languages (2)

  • English
  • French

Media Appearances (5)

Lessons from the Japanese Canadian internments: Policies built on fear won’t make us safer

The Globe and Mail  


Jan. 19 is an ignominious and little-known landmark on the Canadian calendar. It was on this date in 1943 that Canadian politicians authorized the forced sale of all of the homes, businesses, farms and possessions of Japanese Canadians who had been uprooted from coastal British Columbia in the previous year under the pretext of national security. The lives of affected Japanese Canadians would never be the same.

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Vietnam’s boat people: How four families found refuge in B.C.

The Province  


“It was the first time that a refugee settlement process happened with significant private sponsorship,” says McGill University history professor Laura Madokoro ...

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Vote Compass: Green, NDP supporters most open to accepting more refugees

CBC News  


Laura Madokoro, a professor in the department of history and classical studies at McGill University with an expertise in refugee history, says there's always some reluctance to encourage the movement of people across national borders ...

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Don’t treat history as a civics lesson

The Globe and Mail  


he parliamentary heritage committee’s recent decision to conduct a review of history as it’s presented in Canadian museums and archives has sparked debate across the country about the nature of this history. Proponents of the review believe it will ensure that “Canadians understand that the rights and freedoms we enjoy are a precious inheritance.” But treating Canadian history as a civics lesson is a mistake.

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Laura Madokoro: Jim and Joanne Chu, and remembering the first Chinese refugees settled in Canada

National Post  


Fifty years ago this month, three-year old Jim Chu and his sister Joanne, along with their parents, arrived in Calgary on a flight from Hong Kong. They didn’t know they were making history, but they were. They were part of the first group of Chinese refugees ever resettled to Canada. Their story, and that of others who came to Canada as part of the special Chinese Refugee Program, has largely been forgotten. Yet there are important lessons to be garnered from the past. Looking to the events of 1962 shows clearly how Canadian society benefits when governments take the lead on treating refugees with respect and dignity.

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Articles (5)

Transactions and Trajectories: The Social Life of Chinese Migrant Photographs

Photography and Culture

2015 Beginning in the 1880s, the New Zealand Collector of Customs required Chinese migrants temporarily departing the country to submit an identifying photograph to its custody and control. Migrants carried a duplicate copy with them to China and would present themselves, and their copy of the photograph, upon their return to New Zealand to regain entry and avoid paying a punitive poll tax more than once.

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Handprints in the Archives: Exploring the Emotional Life of the State

Social History

2015 Using Certificates of Exemption issued by the government of Australia from 1901 to 1958, this article explores how official immigration records can be used to document the emotional life of the state. As part of the government’s efforts to discourage Asian migrants from settling permanently in Australia, the 1901 Immigration Act required new arrivals to pass a dictation test in order to be admitted.

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Surveying Hong Kong in the 1950s: Western Humanitarians and the ‘Problem’ of Chinese Refugees

Modern Asian Studies

2015 At the end of the Second World War, there were over a million displaced persons and refugees in Europe alone. Hundreds of thousands of people were uprooted with the expansion of the Japanese empire across the Pacific Theater, and many others were similarly displaced when Japan was defeated. Others later fled civil conflicts, in South Asia, for instance, and in China, where thousands left the mainland during the final days of the Chinese Civil War. Among this massive displacement in Asia, unlike in Europe, only a few groups were identified as refugees.

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Global Displacements and Emplacement: The Forced Exile and Resettlement Experiences of Ethnic Chinese

Journal of Chinese Overseas


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Aging, Activism, and the Archive: Feminist Perspectives for the 21st Century


2014 This article investigates the process of a collaborative, community-driven initiative to create an archives for the Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN), a national Canadian organization. Based on records, key informant interviews, and the authors’ participation in the process, the article points to two salient limitations in archival scholarship: (1) the existing gap in considering how intergenerational relationships might form around, and potentially shape, collaborative archives; and (2) the scarce attention given to how, by whom, and to what effect older women’s lives and associations are being recorded and represented.

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