Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-14-2014

Major Department or Program



Jack Jackson


This thesis intervenes in the current discussions of how to think about and deal with refugees and migrants both on an international humanitarian scale and within US domestic policy. I argue that both frameworks do not actually address the complexities of the root causes of migration, and that the factors that designate refugees from migrants are deeply geopolitical and biopolitical. Ultimately, what is missing from these normative frameworks is the account of state responsibility for the legacies of colonial violence and imperial relationships in which liberal empires, like the US, have and continue to exploit states throughout the “global South” for resources and political influence. As seen throughout US history, the US has manipulated its definitions and policies to not only perpetuate its imperial legacy abroad, but to police the social and racial make up of the national body as well.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Liberalism -- United States, Displaced persons, Forced migration, Refugees -- moral and ethical aspects, Humanitarianism -- History, Social control -- History -- 20th century, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United States -- Government policy -- Comparison, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2014 -- Politics Department

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Public Accessible Thesis

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