Statelessness in Asia, Australia and the Pacific during the Global Second World War

The Humanities Research Center is pleased to announce the launch of research project: “Statelessness in Asia, Australia and the Pacific during the Global Second World War,” led by Kolleen Guy and Jay Winter.

In this research project, we interrogate the category of statelessness, in the hope of adding a new dimension to the history of refugees in the Second World War.  Statelessness is a form of social and political exclusion inflicted on German Jews after 1935 and on Austrian Jews after Anschluss in 1938.  It entailed loss of citizenship, or loss of standing with respect to the state and its power to protect its inhabitants.  In 1941, German and formerly Austrian Jews lost their right to nationality.  That is, on racial grounds, they were cast out from the German nation.  Having neither citizenship nor nationality, German Jews were stateless.  By the time approximately 20,000 German and Austrian Jews sought a safe haven in Shanghai in the early 1940s, they were no longer refugees; they were stateless people.

Hannah Arendt, herself made stateless by the Nazis, took statelessness to be a terrifying injury.  To Arendt, stateless people lacked the right to have rights.  The question we raise is this: is Arendt’s statement true, when we survey the lives of the displaced, the refugees and the stateless in the Asian and Pacific theatres of the Second World War?  We intend to explore the alternative hypothesis that refugees create their own rights through initiatives from below.  We examine the Shanghai case in comparative perspective, drawing on the work of a distinguished group of scholars.  We have put together two working groups who will examine this question in comparative perspective.  One will meet at Duke University, and a second will convene in Melbourne, Australia.  These hybrid meetings will enable scholars to discuss drafts of papers and prepare a book for publication entitled ‘Beyond statelessness: Refugees in the Asian and Pacific theatres of the Second World War’.


Kolleen Marie Guy

Kolleen Guy is an Associate Professor of Humanities and Chair of the Division of Arts and Humanities of  Undergraduate Program at Duke Kunshan University. She has a PhD in History from Indiana University, Bloomington. Prior to joining DKU, she was the Ricardo Romo Distinguished Professor in the Honors College at the University of Texas, San Antonio. Professor Guy’s research focuses on the history of food and wine as highlighted in her award-winning book, When Champagne became French: Wine and the Making of a National Identity. Her main research interest is on how the consumption and production of food and drink shape national memory and identity. She has won numerous awards for teaching innovation.

Jay Winter

Jay Winter is the Charles J. Stille Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University.  He is a specialist on World War I and its impact on the 20th century.  Previously, Winter taught at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Warwick, the University of Cambridge, and Columbia University.  In 2001, he joined the faculty of Yale.  Winter is the author or co-author of 25 books, including Socialism and the Challenge of War; Ideas and Politics in Britain, 1912-18Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural HistoryThe Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century; Rene Cassin and the rights of man, and most recently, War beyond words: Languages of remembrance from the Great War to the present.  In addition he has edited or co-edited 30 books and contributed 130 book chapters to edited volumes.  Winter was also co-producer, co-writer, and chief historian for the PBS/BBC series The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century, which won an Emmy Award, a Peabody Award and a Producers Guild of America Award for best television documentary in 1997.  He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Graz, the University of Leuven, and the University of Paris.