Manchester Calling

The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute

Antoine Burgard is a visiting postdoctoral fellow at HCRI.  He has recently been appointed to the role of Lecturer in Contemporary History of Humanitarianism and Disasters, which will begin in January 2020.

Before completing a PhD in History from Université Lumière Lyon 2 and Université du Québec à Montréal, Antoine’s curiosity in the displacement of Holocaust survivors began to develop during his bachelor’s degree.

Dr Antoine Burgard

In 2010, Antoine worked on an internship at the Centre d’histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation in Lyon. “The internship made me realise that I was really interested, yes in the Holocaust, but more so on the idea of its aftermath,” reflects Antoine.

With his interest sparked, Antoine transitioned his research to focus on Holocaust survivors who migrated to North America. He worked in archives in Montreal, gaining access to a vast supply of documents that told the stories of Holocaust orphans who tried to apply for Canadian visas.

A key question Antoine has considered in his work is age categorisation. During his research he realised: “Where do you draw the line between a child and an adult? What is exactly the category of a teenager or adolescent?” Antoine says that these questions are important because they have a massive impact on the lives of young people in situations of conflict and displacement.

On completing his PhD in 2017, for which he was awarded Best Doctoral Thesis from the International Council for Canadian Studies, the French Association for Canadian Studies, and the Fondation Auschwitz, Antoine secured a two-year funding with the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris as well as a grant from the Fondation Claude Levy in Strasbourg to conduct an oral history project with Holocaust survivors in France, Belgium and Britain.

Based on his work, Antoine has developed a teaching toolkit which will be used by the history teachers at the European School of Strasbourg to encourage students to learn more about the fate of Jewish children during the Holocaust and to critically question the use of testimonies in history.

Antoine is sharing his research in the classroom. He has developed the course ‘Children in War and Displacement’, which allows him to demonstrate both the usefulness of his discipline and the importance of adopting a historical perspective on current humanitarian issues.

“What I think is really interesting in HCRI is that it brings together a lot of different disciplines, even though it definitely takes you out of your comfort zone,” reflects Antoine.

Antoine explains how, although being a historian, he did not want to be in a history department. “It’s nice to work with people that are in different disciplines but who have similar questions.” Antoine describes how the staff at HCRI are careful to engage with current news, something he does not see as much in history departments.

Antoine has recently obtained an early career fellowship at the John Rylands Research Institute to work on a new project with HCRI and the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM) during which he will continue investigating the importance of age in migration control.