The politics of the displaced family in the refugee regime of postwar Europe

Date/Time: Fri 15 Sep / 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Location: Monash University, Room E561, (Menzies Building) 20 Chancellors Walk, Clayton Campus

Philosophical, Historical and International Studies (SoPHIS)

History Program Research Seminar

The politics of the displaced family in the refugee regime of postwar Europe

In late 1950, Vilma Leimanis sat down and penned a letter to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt from the barracks of Displaced Persons (DP) camp Paderborn in Germany. “Maybe you are more or less surprised at receiving this letter because of its author”, the letter began in a tone of wry self-deprecation. “I expect you can hardly believe that it is sent to you by a Latvian DP in Germany.” Leimanis had taken this step, as she informed Mrs Roosevelt, because she and her children had lost their case with the International Refugee Organisation for refugee status on account of her husband’s activities as a German collaborator during the war. “The IRO authorities try to employ the well known totalitarian methods – to convict the whole family if only one member of the family is convicted.” Vilma Leimanis was unsuccessful in her attempt to have the decision overturned. In this paper, I discuss the gendered dimensions of the refugee eligibility process, which often worked against women and children in the name of “keeping the family together”. I further explore the way in which an ideology and politics of the family shaped the modern postwar regimes of immigration, resettlement and humanitarian relief.

For more information, please contact Julie Kalman on 9905 2161.

Ruth Balint is a senior lecturer in History at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia. She teaches and writes on transnational histories of migration, displacement, refugees and family, with a current focus on the Displaced Persons of postwar Europe. Her work has recently been published in History Workshop Journal (2016) and the Journal of the History of the Family (2017). She currently shares an Australian Research Council Grant with Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick on the history of Russians who came to Australia via the China Route after World War Two.

Friday 15th September

12:00pm – 1:00pm

E561, East Wing, Level 5
Menzies Building, 20 Chancellors Walk
Clayton Campus

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