Beyond Relief and Rehabilitation: UNRRA in Historical Perspective, 1943-1947

Samantha K Knapton's picture
Call for Papers
April 15, 2018
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
European History / Studies, German History / Studies, Modern European History / Studies, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Eastern Europe History / Studies

One-day workshop to be held at Newcastle University on Thursday, June 28th 2018

Keynote address to be delivered by Dr Jessica Reinisch (Birkbeck, University of London)

The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, or UNRRA, was the first truly international humanitarian effort to prevent famine, destitution, and disease after a major conflict. Until the creation of UNRRA in 1943, war and post-war relief was predominantly carried out by charities, philanthropic individuals, or societies, each of which had independent aims and motives. Between its creation in 1943 and its closure in 1947, UNRRA provided emergency relief and long-term rehabilitation to millions of refugees and displaced persons (DPs) who fell under its mandate. UNRRA’s action in the international arena marked a watershed moment in international relations, human rights, and refugee humanitarianism. In shaping migration policy and conflict resolution and reconstruction processes, the Administration established a precedent for the emergence of the modern-day United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as well as for future UN specialised agencies, such as UNICEF, UNESCO, and WHO. In many ways, UNRRA can be viewed as a lens through which we can understand contemporary challenges in the world today.

This one-day workshop, which will be held on Thursday, June 28th 2018 at Newcastle University, will bring together likeminded scholars and experts of UNRRA with the aim of revealing how humanitarian needs conflicted with administrative and political restrictions within the context of WWII and its immediate aftermath. We are interested in papers that examine any aspect of UNRRA from its conception and beyond, including (but not limited to):

  • The UNRRA mandate, international protection, and the politics of eligibility and exclusion
  • Relief and rehabilitation in local, regional, transnational, and international contexts
  • The immediate and long-term needs of refugees and DPs
  • UNRRA and material needs (i.e. food rations; clothing; housing; medical supplies)
  • Trajectories of repatriation and forced migration; repatriation convoys; transit and reception centres
  • Resettlement schemes; immigration schemes; labour schemes
  • The DP camp in everyday life (e.g. hospitals, mess halls, places of worship, vocational training, schooling)
  • UNRRA, children and childhood (e.g. displaced children; child orphans; unaccompanied children; Child Search)
  • UNRRA and criminality
  • UNRRA and the military authorities
  • UNRRA and intergovernmental and/or voluntary agencies
  • UNRRA and Jewish DPs
  • The transition from UNRRA to the International Refugee Organisation (IRO, 1947-1950), its successor agency
  • The legacies of UNRRA in modern-day United Nations specialised agencies (UNHCR; UNICEF; UNESCO; WHO)

Please send an abstract (300 words max.) and a brief biographical sketch to Samantha Knapton ( and Katherine Rossy ( by April 15th, 2018. Papers that adopt an interdisciplinary approach are especially welcome.

This workshop is supported by Newcastle University’s Humanities Research Institute (NUHRI), the Cultural Significance of Place (CSoP), and the International Studies in Forced Migration Group. Thanks to generous funding, there will be no attendance fee and will include refreshments, a luncheon, and a wine reception. Registration details will be announced well in advance of the workshop date. 

Contact Info: 

Samantha Knapton. Newcastle University. E-mail:

Katherine Rossy. Queen Mary University of London. E-mail: