Public Programs And Events

Politics Talk: Ayten Gündoğdu, "Between the Human and the Person:  A Critical Inquiry into the Subject of Rights"

Politics Talk: Ayten Gündoğdu, "Between the Human and the Person: A Critical Inquiry into the Subject of Rights"

Wolff Conference Room, Room D1103, Albert and Vera List Academic Center
General Public 

Historically, various categories of human beings (e.g. slaves, women) were denied personhood; not every member of the human species was considered to be a rights-bearing subject. We have come to see these exclusions as unacceptable prejudices of a bygone era particularly with the rise of a human rights framework that establishes each human being as a person entitled to a set of fundamental, inalienable rights. The peculiar formula of “the human person,” inscribed in many human rights documents, suggests that personhood has finally become coextensive with humanity.

In her presentation "Between the Human and the Person: A Critical Inquiry into the Subject of Rights" Ayten Gündoğdu takes issue with contemporary assumptions about personhood by engaging with the works of Hannah Arendt and Roberto Esposito.  The commonly held belief that personhood is a universally shared and inherently given human attribute makes it difficult to see how this legal artifact continues to be characterized by hierarchies and remains to be precarious and elusive for many groups (e.g. migrants in an irregular status). This critical inquiry draws attention to the contemporary practices of unmaking and diminishing personhood, which expose us once again to the gap between “the human” and “the person.”

Ayten Gündoğdu is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Barnard College-Columbia University. Her research and writing focus on critical approaches to human rights and humanitarianism, political and ethical dilemmas of global migration, and contemporary problems in democratic theory. Professor Gündoğdu has recently published a book titled Rightlessness in an Age of Rights: Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants (Oxford University Press, 2015). Her work also appeared in several edited volumes and journals such as European Journal of Political Theory, Contemporary Political Theory, and Law, Culture and the Humanities. She is the recipient of several fellowships and grants, including a postdoctoral fellowship from Harvard University, Sawyer Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and a MacArthur scholarship from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

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