Bill Sharman is a PhD student in the department of history. He specializes in the history of modern Europe, primarily Germany, and has also trained in African history. He is currently at work on a dissertation, Moral Politics: Humanitarianism and the Third World in West Germany, which tracks the circuits of humanitarian thought and practice between West Germany and parts of sub-Saharan Africa between the late 1940s and 1980s. During this period, humanitarian ideology became fused with the project of human rights, especially starting in the 1970s as African refugees increasingly sought asylum in West Germany. With a grant from the Duke Human Rights Center, Bill will research the archives of NGOs and government agencies involved in refugee activism and immigrant regulation in Germany, as well as the historical collection of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland. His project seeks to understand the forms of individual and collective political action by and for refugees; the systems of care and government involving social workers, doctors, judges, and bureaucrats; and the extent to which the language of human rights shaped the politics of asylum. With this perspective, his research also aims to provide a historical framework for thinking through issues surrounding the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe today.


Hierarchies of Humanity: Refugees and Asylum in West Germany

On the Ethics and Politics of Humanitarian Representation and Intervention