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About the Event
“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. In particular, the racialized construction of “illegality” turns many migrants into non-persons unworthy of rights, condemns them to a form of civil death in life, and renders even their deaths legally unaccountable and socially ungrievable.
About the Speaker
Ayten Gündoğdu is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Barnard College-Columbia University. Her research addresses problems related to human rights, migration, sovereignty, and personhood by drawing on the resources of modern and contemporary political theory. She is the author of Rightlessness in an Age of Rights: Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants (Oxford, 2015).
About the Stanford Summer Human Rights Program
The Stanford Summer Human Rights Program is an interdisciplinary collaboration that explores emerging issues in human rights through a series of courses, public lectures, and films.