Sarah Deardorff Miller
BiographyDr. Sarah Deardorff Miller currently teaches with American University (School of International Studies) and the University of London (School of Advanced Study) online. She holds a doctorate from the University of Oxford, and focuses on the politics of forced migration. She also consults with various refugee-focused non-governmental organizations, and has two upcoming books soon to be released: one on Syrian displacement, and another on the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in protracted refugee situations. Other research interests include global governance and the global refugee regime, the role of international organizations in humanitarian crises, and responses to internal displacement.
She lives outside of New York City in Greenwich, Connecticut with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
Sarah has a range of research interests, all influenced by personal, professional and academic experience. Broadly speaking, her interests span the subject of International Relations (IR), and include everything from global governance to international organizations and cooperation among states and non-state actors. More specifically, she is most interested in forced migration, including refugees, internally displaced people and other groups of forced migrants. This relates to humanitarian/development studies, human rights, international legal norms, and the role of international organizations in responding to instances of forced migration.
Regionally speaking, she has spent most of my time in East Africa: she worked in Tanzania, and carried out field research in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. She also carried out shorter research stints in Thailand, Nepal, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. She also has a forthcoming book on Syrian displacement (to be published through Routledge) toward the end of 2016. During her undergraduate days, her Spanish major and various travel opportunities took her to Latin America, including Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and more recently the US Embassy in Ottawa hosted her for a speaking tour on refugee resettlement in the US and Canada (see "media" section). Thus, she has a diverse range of regional interests.
Sarah's doctoral research focused on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and protracted refugee situations. This remains an area of study that is still of great interest to her, and there remains much more to be done. As indicated above, she also has a book coming out soon on Syrian displacement, and she is very interested in pursuing additional research on the UN Summit taking place in September 2016, which relates to large-scale and protracted displacement. Indeed, Sarah would like to further examine the historical dimensions of the three traditional "durable solutions" and how new thinking is evolving on solutions to displacement.
Sarah feels strongly that a topic like forced migration benefits from a range of perspectives--both within IR and beyond. Indeed, her graduate work at the University of Chicago and Oxford University was interdisciplinary, and she appreciates relevant scholarship from subjects like sociology, anthropology, law and history in my research. She has found that literature within these subjects greatly enriches her IR-focused perspectives.
Above all, she is passionate about her work because it includes a hybrid of theory, policy and practice. Indeed, studying something like forced migration--a subject that involves looking closely at human suffering and some of the world's most dire situations--should not be done out of mere academic curiosity, but with also with the motivation that research will provide information that might contribute to better solutions to displacement. As David Turton writes, “I cannot see any justification for conducting research into situations of extreme human suffering if one does not have the alleviation of suffering as an explicit objective of one’s research. For the academic this means attempting to influence the behavior and thinking of policy-makers and practitioners so that their interventions are more likely to improve than worsen the situation of those whom they wish to help.”* Thus, the politics of forced migration is fascinating and important to her on multiple levels: out of academic inquiry as a scholar of IR; out of professional interest, given her experiences with refugees and other displaced persons in her own work; and on a personal level out of concern for those in need.
Sarah has a Doctor of Philosophy in International Relations from the University of Oxford, where she was a member of St. Antony’s College. Her dissertation, entitled "IO Power from Within? UNHCR's Surrogate Statehood in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda," focused on the politics of forced migration, and in particular, the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in protracted refugee situations in East Africa. It examined the conditions under which UNHCR took on "surrogate state" roles, and how that affected its ability to influence state responses to refugees. She conducted fieldwork interviews in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and completed her doctoral coursework at Georgetown University, where she was later a Visiting Researcher. This has helped her learn important differences between UK/European and US approaches to the study of International Relations. During her doctoral studies, she was the recipient of the prestigious PEO Women's Scholarship, and was also awarded a Carr and Stahl Travel grant from St. Antony's College, and the Peter Fitzpatrick Scholarship at St. Antony's College.
Sarah also has a Master of Science in Forced Migration from Oxford, where her thesis received distinction and was later published through Oxford's Refugee Studies Centre Working Paper Series. Her thesis considered the legality of long-term encampment through a human rights lens, and drew upon the interdisciplinary coursework of the program. During her MSc, she was honored to be the recipient of the Weidenfeld Scholarship, a full scholarship and stipend for international leadership/development potential.
Sarah also holds a Master of Arts in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, where she also earned a merit scholarship. This degree proved foundational to her theoretical and methodological understanding of social science research. She took a range of courses relating to human rights and migration, and her thesis focused on asylum seekers at sea and interdiction practices. She also carried out other research on anti-human smuggling efforts and human rights.
Finally, Sarah's Bachelor of Arts undergraduate degree is from Valparaiso University, and is in History, Spanish and International Service. She also holds a minor in humanities, earned in conjunction with the interdisciplinary honor's college (Christ College), where she was a member for four years. She was awarded a number of scholarships, including a Presidential Scholarship, an athletic scholarship for swimming, and a number of private grants and scholarship awards. She was a Christ College Scholar and graduated magna cum laude. She was also made a member of various honor societies, including Sigman Delta Pi (National Spanish Honor Society), Phi Alpha Theta (National History Honor Society), and Pi Gamma Mu (Social Sciences Honor Society). Her honor's thesis considered liberation theology and environmental ethics in developing nations. She also wrote an international service thesis on Australian detention practices, and a history senior thesis on Irish immigration to Indiana in the nineteenth century.