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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Cristian Capotescu Named the 2020-21 Sawyer Seminar on Humanitarianisms Postdoctoral Fellow

The Simpson Center for the Humanities is pleased to announce that Cristian Capotescu has joined the Mellon Sawyer Seminar on Humanitarianisms: Migrations and Care through the Global South as the postdoctoral fellow for 2020-21. Led by Arzoo Osanloo (Law, Societies & Justice) and Cabeiri Robinson (Jackson School of International Studies), Humanitarianisms seeks to decolonize the rhetoric and understanding of humanitarianism by examining the histories of forced migration and practices of humanitarian care for forced migrants, including both ‘conventional’ and ‘humanitarian refugees’, that developed outside of Europe and North America.

Cristian is an interdisciplinary historian of the global twentieth century with research interests in disaster studies, migration, economic life, humanitarianism, and social history. Cristian earned his Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan in 2020. His current book project is based on his dissertation Giving in the Time of Socialism: Economic Life, Humanitarianism, and Mobility in the Global Postwar. His work traces how natural disasters, economic austerity, and refugee movements in the socialist bloc became transformative moments of private solidarity in Ceausescu’s Romania between 1970-1989. Cristian’s dissertation examines through the lens of historical ethnography clandestine forms of welfare provisioning organized by social workers, feminist activists, diasporic communities, and many other private volunteers in East-Central Europe. Drawing on numerous official archives and oral histories from five countries, his work expands the subjects and sites that count in the emergent literature on humanitarianism. His book project recuperates how the idea of humanity became a bedrock in the social lives of ordinary people after 1945, repeatedly moving such seemingly peripheral places as Romania from the margins of the Cold War to the center of the imageries and ethical aspirations of a broader international public. Cristian’s most recent journal article “Migrants into Humanitarians: Ethnic Solidarity and Private Aid-Giving during Romania’s Historic Flood of 1970” appeared in East European Politics and Societies

Cristian also leads a research team of a population health equity grant funded by the University of Washington’s Population Health Initiative. In collaboration with the Metropolitan Area Action Committee on Anti-Poverty, this interdisciplinary project studies the efficacy and challenges of distance learning for low-income students of color in the San Diego area during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Congratulations and welcome, Cristian!