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"What Does the Language of Crisis Tell Us About the Contemporary World?"

Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Wolff Conference Room, Room D1103, Albert and Vera List Academic Center, D1103 6 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003, Room D1103

Should a difference be made between a world of crises and a world in crisis? This lecture will be based on a series of empirical studies conducted in the past decade in an attempt to define a method for a critical theory of crisis. The ubiquity of the language of crisis today tells us something about the actuality and the imaginary of contemporary societies. One can regard it literally as a sign of our times: it signals something important about the present. Yet, we cannot take for granted this representation of our world. Critique is necessary to question how certain crises come into being while other do not and what does the acknowledgment of crises authorize and legitimize. 

Didier Fassin is James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and a Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. Anthropologist, sociologist and physician, he has conducted extensive research in Senegal, Congo, South Africa, Ecuador, and France. Laureate of an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council, he has elaborated a political and moral anthropology which he put to work through a ten-year ethnography of the French state, doing fieldwork on police, justice and prison. His most recent inquiry has consisted in a critical engagement with philosophical approaches to punishment, which was the matter of his Tanner Lectures at Berkeley, and to life, which was the topic of his Adorno Lectures in Frankfurt. Recipient of the Gold Medal in anthropology at the Swedish Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was also the first social scientist to be granted the Nomis Distinguished Scientist Award. Former vice-president of Médecins Sans Frontières, he is currently President of the French Medical Committee for Exiles. He recently authored  Enforcing Order. An Ethnography of Urban Policing (Polity, 2013), Prison Worlds. An Ethnography of the Carceral Condition (Polity, 2016), Life. A critical User’s Manual (Polity, 2018), The Will to Punish (Oxford University Press, 2018). 

Photo Credit: Emmanuelle Marchadour

Presented by the Department of Sociology at the New School for Social Research

Event Type

Lectures and Panel Discussions


General Public


Intellectual Culture and Big Ideas


Sociology, Social Sciences



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