Prof Tom Scott-Smith

Associate Professor of Refugee Studies and Forced Migration

Tom Scott-Smith is Associate Professor of Refugee Studies and Forced Migration, fellow of St Cross College and Course Director for the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration. He specialises in the ethnographic and historical study of humanitarian relief and its impact on the lives of refugees.

He holds an MPhil and DPhil from the University of Oxford, and was previously Lecturer at the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol and Senior Scholar at Lincoln College, Oxford.

Tom's work on humanitarianism has appeared in a number of peer-reviewed scholarly journals, including American EthnologistSocial Studies of Science, Development and ChangeThird World Quarterly, and the Journal of Refugee Studies. His book on the history of humanitarian nutrition, entitled On an Empty Stomach: Two Hundred Years of Hunger Relief will be published in 2020 by Cornell University Press. 

Before coming to academia, Tom worked as a development practitioner in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Teaching & Supervision
Humanitarian nutrition
Emergency shelter
Architectures of Displacement


Tom Scott-Smith is Course Director for the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. He teaches courses on The Anthropology of Forced Migration; Research Methods in the Study of Forced Migration; and The History and Politics of Humanitarian Aid.

Doctoral supervision

Tom is interested in supervising doctoral research on the history and politics of humanitarian action, the ethnography of humanitarian institutions, the everyday life of aid workers, and the study of technological objects used in emergencies. He has particular expertise in the nutrition and shelter sectors, non-governmental organisations, and the politics of humanitarian principles.

Research Students supervised

Faith Cowling
Research Student
Imogen Dobie
Research Student
Myfanwy James
Research Student
Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen
Research Student
Claire Walkey
Research Student

Journal articles and special issues

Scott-Smith, Tom (2018) 'Paradoxes of Resilience: A Review of the World Disasters Report 2016', Development and Change 49 (2) 662-77
Scott-Smith, Tom (ed) (2016) 'Special Issue: Humanitarianism and the Migration Crisis', Refugee Survey Quarterly 35 (2)
Scott-Smith, Tom (2016) 'Humanitarian dilemmas in a mobile world', Refugee Survey Quarterly 35 (2) 1-21
Scott-Smith, Tom (2016) 'Humanitarian neophilia: the ‘innovation turn’ and its implications', Third World Quarterly
Scott-Smith, Tom (2015) 'Beyond the 'raw' and the 'cooked': a history of fortified blended foods', Disasters 39 (s2) s244-60
Scott-Smith, Tom (2015) 'Control and Biopower in Contemporary Humanitarian Aid: The Case of Supplementary Feeding', Journal of Refugee Studies 28 (1) 21-37
Scott-Smith, Tom (2014) 'How projects rise and fall: the lifecycle of a dietary modernisation scheme', Development in Practice 24 (7) 785-96
Scott-Smith, Tom (2013) 'The fetishism of humanitarian objects and the management of malnutrition in emergencies', Third World Quarterly 34 (5) 913-28


Scott-Smith, Tom (2013) 'Insulating the developing classes: ideology and humanitarianism in practice'. In Tina Wallace, et al (eds) Aid, NGOs and the Realities of Women's Lives: A Perfect Storm , Rugby: Practical Action

Other publications

Scott-Smith, Tom (2018) 'A slightly better shelter?', Limn 9
Scott-Smith, Tom (2017) 'The Humanitarian-Architect Divide', Forced Migration Review 55 67-8
15 November, 2019
New article by Tom Scott-Smith critiques Ikea’s ‘universal’ refugee shelter
14 February, 2018
New article by Tom Scott-Smith reviews World Disasters Report 2016 on Resilience
09 January, 2018
New article by Tom Scott-Smith explores 'stickiness' in humanitarian technologies
12 January, 2017
Tom Scott-Smith wins ESRC-AHRC award for project on Architectures of Displacement
24 September, 2015
Department Welcomes Mathias Czaika, Tom Scott-Smith as New Associate Professors
28 March, 2013
BLOG: Tom Scott-Smith on the Many Meanings of Humanitarianism
Research interests:

Humanitarianism, technology, refugees, nutrition, shelter, NGOs