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Sherry, Bennett G. (2018) CROSSING LINES: HOW TRANSNATIONAL ADVOCACY AND REFUGEE MIGRATION SHAPED THE UNHCR IN TURKEY, 1960-1988. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation utilizes a world-historical systems perspective to investigate how international organizations expand their influence and how the subjects of those organizations play a role in that expansion. This investigation takes as its case study the transformation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Ankara, Turkey, as it grew from a three-person operation in 1960 into the world’s largest UNHCR program by the late 1980s. For over twenty years, the UNHCR branch office in Turkey tried and failed to expand cooperation with the Turkish authorities and formalize the country’s informal refugee policies. Then, in the mid-1980s, the office established cooperation agreements with the Turkish government, gained authority over part of Turkey’s refugee process, and dramatically expanded in size. Based in research at international, national, and NGO archives in Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States, this dissertation traces a global network of Iranian refugees and argues that, through their irregular migration and human rights advocacy, they enabled and compelled the UNHCR’s expansion in Turkey. Indeed, their migrations and advocacy affected change in the global refugee system itself.

This dissertation engages with emerging historiographies of international organizations, human rights, and forced migration. Organized around a global story of networks and linkages emanating and unfolding from Turkey, “Crossing Lines” also contributes to broader world-historical literature and methodologies. The first chapter argues for a world-historical systems approach as a method for emphasizing the historical agency of non-state and refugee actors. The next four chapters treat the period from 1960 to 1988 chronologically, revealing the persistent centrality of NGOs, Iranian refugees, and associated advocacy groups to the UNHCR’s operations in Turkey. Ultimately, this dissertation presents a world-historical story of global change that highlights the agency of marginalized individuals. By including NGO, refugee, and black-market influences on the global system of refugee protection, assistance, and movement, this dissertation complicates the relationships linking international organizations like the UNHCR to the states that they aim to influence and to the refugees they seek to govern.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Sherry, Bennett G.bgs21@pitt.edubgs21
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairManning,
Committee CoChairHolstein,
Committee MemberWarsh,
Committee MemberGoodhart,
Date: 27 September 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 26 June 2018
Approval Date: 27 September 2018
Submission Date: 5 August 2018
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 269
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: human rights; forced migration; international organizations; Iran; asylum; refugees; Europe; Middle East; world history; global refugee system; refugee regime; Amnesty International
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2018 22:59
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2023 05:15


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