Public Lecture by Dider Fassin: The Multiple Truths of Asylum – 5th of June 2013
The Multiple Truths of Asylum
A Public Lecture by Professor Didier Fassin, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.
Time: 6 to 7.30 pm, Wednesday 5th June 2013, with cheese and wine.
Venue: The Atrium, Southwest Engineering Building, East Campus, University of the Witwatersrand.
Based on ten years of research, this lecture will examine the significant changes that have occurred in the conception of the right to asylum in recent decades and will propose an inquiry into the concept of truth – that of what asylum is considered to be, that of the asylum seekers as their past is scrutinized, and ultimately that of contemporary societies, increasingly reluctant to protect the victims of violence.
“Civilized countries did offer the right of asylum to those who, for political reasons, had been persecuted by their governments, and this practice, though never officially incorporated into any constitution, has functioned well enough throughout the nineteenth and even in the twentieth century; the trouble arose when it appeared that the new categories of persecuted were far too numerous to be handled by an unofficial practice destined for exceptional cases,” writes Hannah Arendt.
Indeed, an institution dating from Antiquity whose formal recognition culminates with the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, asylum has been confronted with a dramatic increase in applicants during the past century. However, this burden has been unevenly distributed worldwide: refugees are massively concentrated in camps of the global South, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia, whereas asylum seekers are selected via a form of casuistry in the global North, under the pressure of growing suspicion toward so-called bogus refugees, South Africa offering an interesting variation on this dual model.
Based on ten years of research about these issues, the lecture will examine the significant changes that have occurred in the conception of the right to asylum in recent decades and the ordeal faced by the applicants as they go through complex administrative and judiciary procedures in an attempt to have their status acknowledged. To explore the refugee question, the analysis will propose an inquiry into the concept of truth – that of what asylum is considered to be, that of the asylum seekers as their past is scrutinized, and ultimately that of contemporary societies, increasingly reluctant to protect the victims of violence.
Professor Fassin is the James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study of Princeton. Professor Fassin has a long history of working in South Africa, particularly on HIV/AIDS. His seminal monograph When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa dealt with the experiences and politics of HIV/AIDS during the Mbeki era. It proposed that the corporeal experience of illness was profoundly tied to the social and historical memory of apartheid and state violence. Professor Fassin has also worked widely on matters of humanitarianism, migration, asylum, healthcare and policing. Many of these areas of work were distilled in recent book Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present. Professor Fassin is also the editor of A Companion to Moral Anthropology , and the author of numerous other publications. Fassin will present at the following events.