As a global historian of Africa, Marcia C. Schenck is committed to the study of Africa and Africans as an integral part of writing global history. Her research interests follow this concentration, focusing on the nexus between migration, labor, and development between Africa and the world. Her background lies in African Studies and African and global history. Her areas of specialization include the history of southern and Lusophone Africa from the late 19th century to the present, and global history 1850 to the present.
At Princeton University, Schenck defended her dissertation titled Socialist Solidarities and Their Afterlives: Histories and Memories of Angolan and Mozambican Migrants in the German Democratic Republic, 1975-2015 in September 2017. This social history draws on oral histories of Angolan and Mozambican men and women who worked across various industries in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) during the 1980s. Framed by the chronology of the migrants’ life histories, the project discusses the reasons for leavening and returning home, lived experiences regarding production and consumption, integration and exclusion in the GDR, and the present-day legacies of the migration processes in Angola and Mozambique. Schenck is currently transforming her dissertation into a book and publishing on related projects about African migrations during the Cold War period.
Schenck’s latest research project The African Refugee Regime in Global Perspective 1963-1984 traces the historic genesis of the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa within the context of debates about decolonization, pan-Africanism, and the Cold War in Africa.This political and legal history analyzes the history of international organizations such as the UNHCR and the OAU with regard to the formulation of the African refugee regime. The implications of the convention in question, however, cannot be understood without taking into account the formalization of a European refugee regime after the Second World War or considering the discussions about a Latin American regional refugee complex in the early 1980s.
Trained in higher education in emergency settings, Schenck has taught refugee learners in Kakuma refugee camp in the north of Kenya in connection with Professor Jeremy Adelman’s Massive Open Online Course Global History Lab. Schenck remains involved in projects that contribute to redefining access to university level history learning in non-traditional settings. In this context, she is currently reflecting upon the role of humanitarian history-in-action (different from the history of humanitarianism).