Governing settlers and nonsettlers on the move: Christopher Szaba, Governing Global Migration: Internationalism, Colonialism, and Mass Mobility, 1850-1980, PhD dissertation, Cornell University, 2020


Abstract: This dissertation traces the history of the governance of global migration at the level of international law and institutions. Situated at the intersection of international and global history, it argues that national immigration and emigration histories, as well as histories of subsets of migratory populations, such as refugees, can only be understood in the context of a broader international migration governance – showing how international plans, treaties, and institutions concerning migration emerged in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the significance of their changing treatments of European and non-European migrants. In doing so, it makes interventions into the history of sovereignty by demonstrating how the role of states within migration governance changed over time, the role of expertise in international law and global governance, the agency of non-European states in the history of international legal and institutional development as opposed to the role of European empires, and the evolution and development of the conceptions of freedom and rights, among others, ultimately demonstrating that the relative lack of an international migration governance in the present day is not a consequence of its having never existed or having been effective, but a consequence of earlier schemes’ character. In the nineteenth century, the dissertation shows, international migration governance arose to address concerns over disease control and the similar risks taken by European and Asian emigrants. Yet after Europe’s devastation in the world wars, migration structures which were proposed and arose primarily benefited European states that sought population “outlets” as a means to participate in demographic expansion beyond the continent: an internationalized form of settler colonialism. Many non-European migrants, meanwhile, lacked similar assistance or only enjoyed lesser protections. Settler schemes were welcomed by Latin American states and, to a lesser extent, British Dominions, which viewed them as bringing security and developmental benefits. Disagreement among states and experts limited the extent and implementation of the schemes, yet were not fatal to them. Still, their focus on European emigration, the dissertation concludes, ultimately prevented these schemes and institutions from overseeing and planning most migration that originated outside of Europe, a legacy continuing to undermine migration governance today.

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