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History PhD Candidate Evan Taparata Receives Inaugural Higham Fellowship

Taparata's dissertation project stood out as strikingly original
May 5, 2016

Illustration of 19th century Irish refugees on the deck of a ship

Illustration of 19th century Irish refugees on the deck of a ship
Illustration of 19th century Irish refugees

During its annual meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) presented graduate student Evan Taparata of the Department of History with their prestigious 2016 John Higham Research Fellowship. The annual fellowship is for graduate students writing doctoral dissertations for a PhD in American history.

Portrait: Evan Taparata
Evan Taparata, PhD candidate, Department of History

Taparata's research focuses on North American migration history, legal history, and US imperialism. In its inaugural year, the OAH John Higham Research Fellowship committee received an outstanding crop of applications, but Taparata's dissertation project stood out as strikingly original and capable of significant and original contributions to the field of history and to the interdisciplinary fields of migration and borderlands studies.

Titled "No Asylum for Mankind: The Creation of Refugee Law and Policy in the United States, 1787–1924," Taparata's project takes one of the most pressing and debated issues of our times—global refugee migrations—and reconsiders the US history of refugee policy from a number of new vantage points.

Unlike the vast majority of scholars in the interdisciplinary field of refugee studies who focus on the second half of the 20th century when a humanitarian regime defined the refugee as a migrant deserving of special attention and consideration, Taparata’s research pushes this timeline back to the American revolutionary era. 

In a move that will undoubtedly spark a major revision to how we currently understand refugees in American history, he also connects the history of refugee resettlement—long understood as an international and humanitarian process—to the internal displacement of diverse peoples, the making of the United States during the nineteenth century, and the passage of exclusionary policies to regulate the movement of peoples within the country.

Taparata was interviewed by Public Radio International on the history of refugee camps after World War II at the end of April.