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Professor Didier Fassin

13th – 17th February, 2017

Didier Fassin

As part of the Distinguished Visitors Scheme, Professor Didier Fassin will be visiting the Department from Monday 13th to Friday 17th February, 2017.

Didier Fassin is the James Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study and Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. Didier is an anthropologist and a sociologist who has conducted fieldwork in Senegal, Ecuador, South Africa, and France.

Trained as a physician in internal medicine and public health, he dedicated his early research to medical anthropology, illuminating important dimensions of the AIDS epidemic, mortality disparities, and global health. He later developed the field of critical moral anthropology, which explores the historical, social, and political signification of moral forms involved in everyday judgement and action as well as in the making of international relations with humanitarianism. His current work is on punishment, asylum, inequality, and the politics of life, and he is developing a reflection on the public presence in the social sciences.

His recent books include Enforcing Order: an ethnography of urban policing (2013), At the Heart of the State: the moral world of institutions (2015), and Prison Worlds: an ethnography of the carceral condition (2016).

Timetable of events


Seminar: The Public Presence of the Social Sciences

Tuesday 14th February 2017, 4.15pm
Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography

Research is generally deemed to end with the publication of its results. What happens afterwards is implicitly viewed as the usual after-sales service of science. Yet the encounter with various audiences, the debates it raises and the new perspectives it opens can be regarded as an object of inquiry in its own right. The lecture will be a tentative analysis of the public afterlife of works in the social science, with a special emphasis on ethnography. It will not promote public social science but will examine what it is, the operations it entails, the questions it poses, the challenges and limitations it faces. It will be grounded in particular in the experience of the reception of and engagement related to recent works on urban policing and on the carceral condition.

Seminar – poster


Public lecture: Critique of Punitive Reason

Wednesday 15th February 2017, 5pm
Large Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography

Over the past three decades, almost all Western countries have developed increasingly severe policies against crime, leading to the skyrocketing of prison demographics, despite declining rates of the most serious ones. The punitive moment contemporary societies are going through invites us to a fundamental reflection on the reasons why we punish. The justification of punishment has indeed long been an important topic in moral philosophy and legal studies, with two major strands: utilitarianism and retributivism. On the basis of research conducted on police, justice and prison in France, the lecture will propose a critical examination of these theories.

Lecture – poster

Didier Fassin

Doctoral session

Thursday 16 February 2017, 11am
Seminar Room, Department of Geography

Graduate students and post-doctoral staff will be contacted with details of the reading required for this session.

A sandwich lunch will be provided at 1pm.