Laura Madokoro

Laura  Madokoro
Contact Information



Adjunct Professor

PhD (University of British Columbia), 2012
MA (University of Toronto), 2000

Specialization by time period: 
1900 - Today
Specialization by geographical area: 
North America
Office hours: 

Tuesdays, 14:30 - 16:00 (Ferrier, Rm. 329);

Directions to office:

The easiest way to get to my office is to go through the entrance at 840 Docteur Penfield. Make an immediate right and you will find yourself in front of the Quebec Studies office. It’s actually a whole series of offices. Go through the Quebec Studies door, turn left and go down the hall. You will find me at the very end on the right.


Laura’s research explores various facets of the history of refugees and humanitarianism. She is especially interested in questions relating to settler colonialism, human rights and race. Her current SSHRC-funded research explores the history of sanctuary in Canada from the 17th century to the present, with a focus on post-Confederation sanctuary practices among a variety of religious and secular communities. Her plan is to eventually build towards a larger translocal history of sanctuary among white settler societies.

A native of Quebec’s Eastern Townships, Laura rambled off along a series of different paths, including a teaching gig in Japan and a stint as an archivist at Library and Archives Canada, before making a return to academic life in 2007. She completed her PhD in History at the University of British Columbia in 2012 with support from SSHRC and the Trudeau Foundation and spent the following year with the History Department at Columbia University as a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow.

Laura is the author of Elusive Refuge: Chinese Migrants in the Cold War (Harvard University Press, 2016), which documents the experience of Chinese migrants during the cold war and the politics of exclusion and humanitarianism among the white settler societies of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Elusive Refuge was recognized with the Association of Asian American Studies’ Best Book in the Social Sciences for 2018, the Chinese Canadian Historical Society’s Ed Wickberg Prize and the 2016 Mershon Center Furniss Book Award. In addition to this major work, Laura is the author of a number of articles related to the history of migration and humanitarianism. She has published widely, including in Photography and Culture, Social History / Histoire Sociale, the Journal of Refugee Studies, the Canadian Historical Review, the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association and the Urban History Review. She is also co-editor of the Dominion of Race: Rethinking Canada’s International History, in which she also authored a history of Canada’s ambivalent relationship to the international refugee regime. In a related vein, she is a co-investigator with the Landscapes of Injustice project on the history of Japanese Canadian property dispossession in the Second World War.

As someone who cares deeply about the political implications of the historical craft, particularly as they relate to contemporary events, Laura has also contributed a number of comment pieces to the Globe and Mail, the National Post and

Laura is currently supervising a number of MA and PhD students and welcomes graduate student applications on topics related to the history of refugees and migration, humanitarianism and settler colonialism.


HIST 370: Canada and the World (Race, Empire and Humaitarianism)

HIST 442: Asian Diasporas

Selected publications: 

Elusive Refuge: Chinese Migrants in the Cold War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016. 331 pg.

“A Decade of Change: Refugee Movements from the Global South and the Transformation of Canada’s Immigration Framework” in Canada and the Third World: Overlapping Histories edited by Karen Dubinsky, Sean Mills and Scott Rutherford. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016.

“Transactions and Trajectories: The Social Life of Chinese Migrant Photographs,” Photography and Culture 8(3) (2015): 325-344.

“Aging, Activism, and the Archive: Feminist Perspectives for the 21st Century,” with May Chazan and Melissa Baldwin, Archivaria 80 (Fall 2015): 59-87.

“Handprints in the Archives: Exploring the Emotional Life of the State,” Histoire Sociale / Social History 48(96) (2015): 25-43.

“Global Displacements and Emplacement: The Forced Exile and Resettlement Experiences of Ethnic Chinese,” with Elaine Lynn-Ee Ho and Glen Peterson, Introduction to the Special Issue of Journal of Overseas Chinese 10(2) (2014): 131-136.

“From Settler Colonialism to the Age of Migration: Archives and the Renewal of Democracy in Canada,” Archivaria 78 (2014): 153-160.

“Surveying Hong Kong in the 1950s: Western Humanitarians and the ‘Problem’ of Chinese Refugees,” Modern Asian Studies 49(2) (2014): 493-524.

“Family Reunification as International History: Rethinking Sino-Canadian Relations after 1970,” International Journal 68 (2013): 591-608.

“Seeing Migrants, Selecting Refugees: A Historical Study of Chinese settlement in Canada and New Zealand,” UNHCR New Issues in Refugee Research, Research Paper No. 252 (January 2013).

“Borders Transformed: Sovereign Concerns, Population Movements and the Making of Territorial Frontiers in Hong Kong, 1949–1967,” Journal of Refugee Studies 25(3) (2012): 407- 427.

“Social Justice, Rights and Dignity: A Call For a Critical Feminist Framework,” with May Chazan, Trudeau Foundation Papers 4(2) (2012).

“‘Slotting’ Chinese Families and Refugees, 1947-1967,” Canadian Historical Review 93(1) (2012): 25-56.

“Chinatown and Monster Homes: The Splintered Chinese Diaspora in Vancouver,” Urban History Review / Revue d’histoire urbaine XXXIX(2) (2011): 17-24.

“Good Material: Canada and the Prague Spring Refugees,” Refuge: Canada’s Periodical on Refugees 6(1) (2009): 161-171.

“Not All Refugees Are Created Equal: Canada Welcomes Sopron Students and Staff in 1956,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 19(1) (2008): 253-278.

“Immigration Guides,” On-line Exhibit: Moving Here, Staying Here  (

“A Home Away From Home for British Guest Children,” The Archivist 121 (2003): 5-10.

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