SOAS University of London

About SOAS

Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond OBE

Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond OBE

The School is saddened to learn of the death of Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond OBE who passed away on 11 July 2018.

SOAS has paid tribute to the outstanding legal anthropologist and pioneer of refugee studies.

Dr Michael Jennings, Head of the Department of Development Studies said: “Barbara was a leading figure in refugee studies, and was driven by a strong personal commitment not just to advancing academic knowledge and policy on issues related to refugees, but also to supporting individual refugees and actively championing of their rights. SOAS benefited hugely from its relationship with Barbara, including our students who always responded keenly to her energy, commitment and knowledge in her many seminars held here.”

Dr Laura Hammond of SOAS Department of Development Studies also paid tribute to Dr Harrell-Bond: “Barbara was truly one of a kind. She was moved by one thing, which was to make sure that refugees’ rights were protected and their voices heard. This meant that she was incredibly compassionate, warm and generous, but she was also sharp-witted and sharp-tongued. She thought nothing of calling out people and policies who stood in the way of protecting refugees. I knew her for more than thirty years, and her dedication to her work and keen insights have been a constant source of inspiration. She will be greatly missed.”

Dr Harrell-Bond founded and then directed the Refugee Studies Centre (1982-96). Previously she was conducting research in West Africa from 1967-1982, while employed by the Departments of Anthropology, University of Edinburgh and University of Illinois-Urbana Champagne, USA, the Afrika Studiecentrum, Leiden, Holland, and the Faculty of Law, University of Warwick.

Dr Harrell-Bond was a strong supporter of SOAS’s Centre of Migration and Diaspora Studies. She regularly gave seminars to students and helped to mentor SOAS staff. In 2016 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from SOAS in recognition of her work in the field of refugee studies.

On retirement from the Refugee Studies Centre, she conducted research in Kenya and Uganda (1997-2000), and was Honorary Adjunct Professor, American University in Cairo (2000-2008). During this period she helped to found the Refugee Law Project at the University of Makerere (Uganda), the Centre of Refugee Studies at Moi University in Kenya, the Forced Migration Studies Programme at AUC-Egypt, and many other centres of refugee and forced migration studies and Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance (AMERA).

She was awarded an OBE in 2005 for “services to refugee and forced migration studies”. She was awarded the Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology awarded by the American Anthropologist Association, and, in 2014 was awarded the Lucy Mair medal for applied anthropology. She founded an information portal, Rights in Exile, which is designed for lawyers representing refugees and which promotes legal assistance for refugees around the world, which is now part of the International Refugee Rights Initiative.

A statement from Rights in Exile can be found here.