Benjamin N. Lawrance
I’m a legal historian and work in Africa and with West African migrants around the globe. My research explores mobility, labor, and exploitation through time and space, and I have written about historical and contemporary slavery, human trafficking, cuisine and globalization, human rights, refugee issues and asylum policies. I am the Editor-in-Chief of the African Studies Review, the flagship journal of the African Studies Association (USA).
I regularly teach courses on African History (HIST/AFAS 208), the African Slave Trades (HIST/AFAS 208), Culture, Cuisine, and Power (HIST 328), and Topics in African History: Africans in Exile (HIST/AFAS 395A).
My first monograph — Locality, Mobility and 'Nation' (Rochester 2007) — examined the experiences of Ewe men and women under French mandate rule in Togo, and will shortly appear in French. My second monograph — Amistad's Orphans (Yale 2014) — examined West African child smuggling in the 19th century, reconstructing a familiar story, namely the 1840-41 Amistad Supreme Court case, through the lens of children’s experiences of enslavement. I’m currently working on a history of postcolonial African social and political persecution, drawing on the narratives of African asylum seekers in Europe and North America. I am the series editor for the Bloomsbury Academic Press series, A Cultural History of Slavery and Human Trafficking.
Among my other recent works are those examining exile, forced marriage, asylum, refugee issues, expert testimony, historical and contemporary trafficking in women and children in Africa. My essays have appeared in the Radical History Review, The Journal of African History, Biography, Slavery & Abolition, African Economic History, Anthropological Quarterly, Cahiers d'Études Africaines, and the African Studies Review, among others. Along with Bill Moseley, I co-chaired the 59th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association in Washington DC in December 2016, with the theme: "Imaging Africa at the Center: Bridging Scholarship, Policy, and Representation in African Studies."
I am often invited to consult on the contemporary political, social, and cultural climate in various countries West Africa. As of 2017, I have served as an expert witness for over four hundred petitions by West African migrants in the U.S., Canada, the U.K, the Netherlands, Israel, and many other countries, and my opinions have featured in appellate rulings in the U.S. and the U.K. I have served as a consultant on asylum and refugee issues to the US Department of State, the National Security Agency, the Japanese UNHCR, the World Bank, the Austrian Red Cross, the Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada, and the US Department of Homeland Security. This has also become an important site of research for me and part of my current ACLS-funded book project.
I am also happy to engage with the press on matters related to Africa, particularly West Africa, trafficking, asylum, refugees, migration, public services, citizenship/nationality, and issues pertaining to children.