Confronting Post-War Crisis: Humanitarian Sojourners in 1940s ‘Far East’

Ms Jiayi Tao2

2University of Bristol, , United Kingdom

The immediate aftermath of the Second World War witnessed various private and official efforts to manage the transition from war to peace, and more specifically to manage massive flows of people and material across national borders. ‘The Far East’, which referred to the geographical terrain of the Pacific theatre as a legacy of wartime thinking, remained interconnected for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), one of the first international organisations established in wartime to provide essential relief to the vast war-devastated population in liberated nations. This was not only because of the practical needs to repatriate the worldwide WWII refugees, but also due to the transnational consensus to promote regional cooperation. A rich research like Jessica Reinisch’s study has contributed to a Euro-centric narrative of post-war recovery or restricted to a single national framework. This study will instead stress the interconnectedness of ‘Asia’ in post-war relief and rehabilitation by focusing on the flow of thousands of Western relief experts through organisations like UNRRA in China, India, Austria, Hong Kong, etc. It is important to notice their experience because it provides us with a chance to examine this particular humanitarian mobilisation, which was led by Anglo-American internationalism but complicated by local political and economic situations. John Grant, for example, was an American-national expert in public health born in a missionary family in China. He was employed by UNRRA in 1944 to advise post-war planning of relief and rehabilitation in China, but Grant later chose to work for the establishment of public welfare system in India largely due to the unsettled Chinese civil war. This study will remind us of the significance of humanitarian sojourners in managing post-WWII relief and rehabilitation on an international level.


Jiayi Tao is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Bristol. Her PhD research focuses on post-war relief and rehabilitation in China (1943–1948) carried out by the transnational humanitarian organizations, notably UNRRA, and Chinese state and non-government actors.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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