“Human” and “person” are terms taken to be synonymous in everyday language, but “person” is also a legal term reserved for those entitled to rights and designating a status historically denied to various categories of human beings (e.g., slaves, women). The international human rights framework attempts to break with that historical record by declaring that every human being shall be recognized as a person equal before the law.
Contemporary struggles of migrants, navigating the byzantine and often lethal world of borders, call into question the key assumptions of the human rights framework, however, and bring to view the divisions within its universalistic formulation of personhood. In this lecture, Ayten Gündoğdu looks at the dilemmas of human rights in the context of border control practices. Borders are taken to be legitimate markers of sovereign statehood, but they install hierarchies within humanity, relegating migrants to a precarious legal status and effectively denying them even the most fundamental human rights such as the right to life or the right to be free from indefinite detention.
Ayten Gündoğdu is an associate professor of political science at Barnard College-Columbia University. At Barnard she teaches courses on political theory and human rights. Professor Gündoğdu’s current research centers on critical approaches to human rights, contemporary problems of citizenship, and political and ethical dilemmas of international migration. She examines these topics in her book, Rightlessness in an Age of Rights (Oxford University Press, 2015), which offers a critical inquiry of human rights by engaging with the works of twentieth-century political theorist Hannah Arendt. At the center of this critical inquiry are the challenging questions posed by the contemporary rights struggles of asylum-seekers, refugees, and undocumented immigrants. Professor Gündoğdu is the recipient of several awards and grants, including a Heyman Center Fellowship from Columbia University (2018-19), a Mellon Mid-Career Fellowship from the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University (2017-18), and a postdoctoral fellowship from the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University (2011-12).
The lecture is part of the lecture series “Legal Critique as Social Theory” (Rechtskritik als Gesellschaftstheorie).
The event is held in cooperation with Human Rights Under Pressure.
05.06.2018 | 18:00 c.t. - 20:00
Ihnestr. 21/ A