My drawers are full of projects.
One of them is a comparative history of Western European minorities during the interwar period. It is led by Dr. Emmanuel Dalle Mulle (see below for more details). A second project gathers a group of advanced students and colleagues of the universities of Lausanne and Geneva. We work on the history of the Rockefeller Foundation fellows and fellowship programs (1920s-1970s) (see below). This project will allow the team, and me in particular, to research the history of international public health as well as the history of state- and nation-building. I have a longstanding commitment to the HION, History of International Organisations Network, www.hion.chA further project in my drawer is on the history and politics of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the 1960s-and-1970s, at a time when decolonisation wars were rife, war in the Middle East recurrent and detention conditions appalling in several countries around the globe. Another project is on the history visual cultures and politics of international organisations. Over the years I developed an interest for public history and with some friends we started Utopia3 ( a project and a start up that has a lot to do with my personal engagement for human rights.
SNSF Project on Minority Protection in Belgium, Italy and Spain
Emmanuel Dalle Mulle and Davide Rodogno, with PhD candidate Mona Bieling (2017-2021)

Davide Rodogno, Professor of International History at the Graduate Institute, has been awarded CHF 591,867 by the SNSF for a research project entitled “The Myth of Homogeneity: Minority Protection and Assimilation in Western Europe, 1919–1939”. He will co-manage this three-year study, due to start in 2017, with Dr Emmanuel Dalle Mulle (PhD in International Studies, 2015).

In the late 1970s, Stein Rokkan and Derek Urwin argued that “most, if not all, states in Western Europe are multi-ethnic, with several layers of identity”. This might seem an obvious statement today, when important regions such as Scotland and Catalonia are confronted with strong demands for self-determination. It was not necessarily so, though, in the first half of the 20th century, when national homogeneity was considered a banal reality in much of Western Europe. 

The main objective of “The Myth of Homogeneity: Minority Protection and Assimilation in Western Europe, 1919–1939” therefore is to question the widely held assumption of national homogeneity in Western Europe during the period under study, an assumption furthered by the then prevalent tendency of Western governments to ignore their own minority issues while, at the same time, imposing legislative constraints concerning the protection of national minorities on the new states emerging from the dissolution of the Central and Eastern European empires.

The project entails a multi-layered and multi-archival inquiry focusing on three case-study countries: Belgium, Italy and Spain. It revolves around three levels of analysis: government legislation concerning minority protection and/or assimilation and its enforcement; sub-state national minority mobilisation, or lack thereof; transnational and international interactions between state and non-state actors dealing with the issue of national minorities. It relies on a wide range of government, international organisations, and diplomatic archives as well as regional, international and transnational repositories. Despite including an analysis of the minority regime built around the League of Nations in the interwar years, the research will not be limited to that international organisation, since Western minorities did not fall under the jurisdiction of the League’s Minorities Section.

The goal is not at all to suggest that minority issues in Western Europe were the same as those in the Eastern part of the continent. It is rather to inquire into the specificities of minority-majority relations in Western European countries in order to provide material for a better-informed and scientifically grounded comparison with the situation in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, as the universalisation of the minority regime was among the main causes defended by organisations fighting for the rights of minorities at the time, the project will also try to answer the question whether we can discern (or not) in their language and/or practice incipient human rights principles, thus contributing to the burgeoning literature on the history of human rights.

But the relevance of the project goes beyond the academic need to fill a lacuna in the existing literature. At a time when Western Europe is confronted with strong separatist demands and centrifugal forces, it is necessary to question national homogeneity and to acquire a better understanding of the historical evolution of majority-minority relations.


SNSF Project
Rockefeller fellows as heralds of globalization:
the circulation of elites, knowledge and practices of modernization (1920s-1970s)
Thomas David, Yitang Lin, Davide Rodogno and Ludovic Tournès (2018-2022)




This project critically explores processes of globalization (or the lack thereof), using the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Program (hereafter RFP) as a point of entry. The program ran from 1917 to 1970 and involved more than 10,000 fellows from 88 countries and a great variety of disciplinary fields in natural and social sciences, medicine and humanities. Through this program, the Rockefeller Foundation (hereafter RF) trained scientists and practitioners from all over the world; it intended these fellows to contribute to modernization processes in their home countries and, eventually, to contribute to building international peace, open markets (creating prosperity) and stable nation states.

Through its policies, the RF thus worked toward the development of knowledge in multiple disciplines and fields. It selected fellows to translate knowledge into “modern” practices designed to solve contemporary problems, such as preventing epidemics, regulating the world economy, or establishing national administrations in newly created states. Rockefeller fellows were the heralds of this agenda, which had global aims. Our research project covers the RF’s vision, how its projects were designed, and the individuals involved, as well as the implementation of its programs and the discrepancies between the original ideas and the eventual outcomes. The research project is structured chronologically and covers the period 1920-1970 in order to highlight possible continuities between then interwar years and the post-1945 period. Finally, we take into account transnational circulations that took place during the Cold War by studying contact between the Eastern and the Western blocs.

We center our attention on the fellows themselves and the ways in which they adhered to, accepted, appropriated and

contributed to (or not) the foundation’s vision. We tell the story of what happened before, during and after the fellowships by

tracing the career paths and transnational circulations of fellows over the long term, throughout their lives and careers.

This project is innovative in several respects:

1. It combines four different historiographical fields of research: the history of philanthropy, the history of knowledge, the history of elites, and the history of development programs. Past research has sometimes crossed the boundaries between these fields, but our approach offers a more sophisticated and thorough historical analysis.

2. It focuses on individuals (the fellows) to offer a different take on the history of globalization, one that studiously avoids teleological interpretations and considers the gaps that exist between global theoretical views – such as that of the RF – and the reality of local situations and individual career paths.

3. It offers a multi-layered analysis by combining a quantitative approach – indispensable for elucidating patterns in

fellows’ career paths – with a qualitative one based on case studies compiled using various archives in a select number of

countries. The database created for the project will be made available online as an open-source tool for the international

research community; it will be hosted on the website of the Rockefeller Archive Center. The database is also designed to be

expanded over time and thus used and adapted for further research.

The Individual and the Group: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention at 70. Philippe Sands QC, Professor of Law, University College and the Group gave this conference in December 2018. My colleague, professor of International Law, Paola Gaeta, chaired it. The conference closed “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Seventy: Historical and Juridical Perspectives”, a symposium co-organised by the department of International History of the Graduate Institute and the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. This was part of the activities related to the FNS research project, The Myth of Homogeneity, mentioned above.
UNESCO AND ODIHR - International workshop for policymakers “The role of education in addressing anti-Semitism, 16 December 2019.

“A horrific photo of a drowned Syrian child”: Humanitarian photography and NGO media strategies in historical perspective

This article, co-writte with Heide Fehrenbach,  is a historical examination of the use of photography in the informational and fundraising strategies of humanitarian organizations. Drawing on archival research and recent scholarship, it shows that the figure of the dead or suffering child has been a centrepiece of humanitarian campaigns for over a century and suggests that in earlier eras too, such photos, under certain conditions, could “go viral” and achieve iconic status. Opening with last year's photo campaign involving the case of 3-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, whose body washed up on a Turkish beach near Bodrum in early September 2015, the article draws on select historical examples to explore continuities and ruptures in the narrative framing and emotional address of photos depicting dead or suffering children, and in the ethically and politically charged decisions by NGO actors and the media to publish and distribute such images. We propose that today, as in the past, the relationship between media and humanitarian NGOs remains symbiotic despite contemporary claims about the revolutionary role of new visual technologies and social media.

Nir Arielli, Davide Rodogno, Transnational Encounters: Hosting and Remembering Twentieth-Century Foreign War Volunteers– Introduction, Journal of Modern European History