Rebecca Viney-Wood

Thesis title

‘Written across your face’: Refugees and Technologies of Identity in Historical Perspective.


This research project principally asks what historical methods of identifying refugees can illuminate in regards to ethics, privacy, experimentation, innovation and identity. In tracking the historical antecedents of contemporary technologies of identity now utilised on refugees, my PhD intends to offer new insights into the history of refugees, building on current and historical debates. Contemporary work with refugees is as important as ever, and it is vital that scholars and practitioners work together to find better ways to conceptualise and challenge current practice. This inquiry has the potential to impact understandings of technologies of identities in relation to refugees, and provide perspective for those who employ them.


  • Bertrand Taithe (Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, Professor in Cultural History)
  • Peter Gatrell (History; Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, Professor of Economic History)

Research interests

Refugees; patterns of migration; displacement; technologies of identification; identity; the history of humanitarianism; the history of bureaucracy; twentieth century history.

Teaching interests

I would be interested in assisting or teaching classes in relation to:

  • The History of Humanitarianism
  • The Russian Famine 1921-1923
  • European refugee crises 1921-1960
  • Post War Germany 1945-1963

Professional background

  • Ecumenical Accompanier, Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI)
  • Policy analyst and researcher in Criminal justice and the Israel-Palestine conflict, Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA), Brussels

Previous education

  • MA Humanitarianism and Conflict Response, University of Manchester
    • Dissertation: ‘’Forgotten People’ Representations of the European ‘Hard Core’ and World Refugee Year 1959-1960’
  • MA Modern History, University of Leeds
    • Dissertation: ‘Spheres of Relief’: The Save the Children Fund, the Friends War Victims Relief Committee and the Russian Famine, 1921-1923
  • BA (Hons) International History and Politics, University of Leeds
    • Dissertation: 'The Child, the Youth and British Relief Work in Post-War Germany'

Why I am doing a PhD at HCRI

As an historian I am passionate about providing context and interrogating precedents for contemporary practices, particularly in the field of humanitarianism. The strong interdisciplinary nature of HCRI allows me to combine my interests in present day refugee issues with their historical roots. It is a privilege to work in such a dynamic academic community with links to a wider global network, and to be able to draw on the expertise of academics leading in their fields.

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