Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Laura Robson

Laura Robson

William L. and Donna F. Oliver-McCourtney Professorship in History


PhD, Yale University
M.St., Oxford University
M.M., Royal Academy of Music
B.A. and B.F.A., Tulane University
Laura Robson Headshot


My scholarship examines questions of ethnic politics, forced migration, and mass violence in the Middle East and beyond. In my first two books, Colonialism and Christianity in Mandate Palestine (University of Texas, 2011) and the edited volume Minorities and the Modern Arab World (Syracuse University, 2016), I examined the almost simultaneous emergence and marginalization of modern “minority” communities in the twentieth century Arab world. My subsequent monograph States of Separation: Transfer, Partition, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (University of California, 2017) and edited collection Partitions: A Transnational History of 20th Century Territorial Separatism (Stanford, 2019; co-edited with Arie Dubnov) both argue for understanding the phenomena of mass displacement and ethnic partition as legacies of empire, in the Middle East as elsewhere. My most recent monograph The Politics of Mass Violence in the Middle East (Oxford, 2020) takes this focus on imperial violence a step further, examining how a wide variety of political actors across the colonial and postcolonial Eastern Mediterranean came to imagine and deploy physical brutality as a primary tool of state-building.

I am currently working on a new book that identifies Franklin Roosevelt’s “M-Project” – a scheme to identify “empty” spaces around the globe where racially undesirable refugee populations might be settled en masse – as a foundational moment for contemporary American and European Union refugee and migration policies, particularly vis-à-vis the Middle East.

Areas of Specialization: