You are here:

James Mackay (University of Edinburgh)
‘Refuge in the British Lines’: refugees from slavery in occupied Savannah and Charleston, 1778-1782 

This paper explores how refugees from slavery created sites of sanctuary behind British lines during the British army’s occupation of Savannah, Georgia, (1778-1782) and Charleston, South Carolina (1780-1782). Inspired by Damian Alan Pargas’s work, I assess how Black refugees experienced ‘formal, semiformal, and informal freedom’ within the occupied cities. This paper argues that while self-emancipated people drew on pre-existing patterns of sanctuary-space creation that had existed before the Revolutionary War, the British occupation created unique conditions for Black refugees to forge places of refuge. The military occupation weakened what historian Stephanie Camp called a ‘geography of containment’ in a slave society, creating different and distinct opportunities for Black refugees to seek sanctuary within an urban setting. I argue that Black refugees transformed the meaning of the spaces they inhabited, turning sites of containment into sanctuary spaces. As Abigail Cooper has argued in her work on Black refugees in the American Civil War, these communities became sites of ‘gathering, information exchange, and family connections.’ Within the occupied cities, self-emancipated people built communities which in turn offered possible sanctuary to other refugees from slavery. In doing so, freedom seekers gained an autonomy that neither British or American forces had foreseen or intended. 

Marcia C. Schenck (Potsdam University) and Gerawork Teferra (Princeton Global History Lab/Jesuit Worldwide Learning)
History Dialogues: researching (in) permanent transience in Kakuma refugee camp

In this seminar we want to bring together a conversation about new ways of addressing established themes in refugee history through a discussion of the History Dialogues Project (HDP), with an exploration of temporality in Kakuma refugee camp. Marcia Schenck will introduce the work of the HDP in training refugee and non-refugee students around the world in oral history methodology andleading them through their individual research projects to reflect on the challenges and rewards of the resulting process and projects. Gerawork Teferra, a former student of the HDP, will present his research on the struggle between temporariness and permanence that many inhabitants of Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya experience. To study the competing dynamics of  permanence and temporariness  through the prism of lived experience, twenty refugees who have been living in camps for a decade or more contributed their experience to this research through oral history interviews with the author who has lived in Kakuma Refugee Camp for nine years. He argues that the change of the camp landscape from a ‘bare desert’ to an ‘urban’ like area as a result of a struggle to sustain life should not disguise the precarious nature and associated costs of adopting a pseudo-permanence. 

All welcome, this seminar is free to attend but booking is required.

Please note that bookings will close 24 hours in advance, so that seminar convenors can distribute the meeting link directly to all registered attendees.

This event is based on discussion of short pre-circulated papers. Please contact the seminar convenors to request copies: