University of Connecticut

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HRI Lunchtime Seminar, Serena Parekh

Monday, April 27, 2015
12:30pm – 2:00pm

Storrs Campus
Dodd 162

Please join us for a lunchtime seminar with Serena Parekh, entitled "The Moral Significance of the Refugee Regime."

There are 72 million people who have been forced outside of their homes and do not belong in any meaningful sense to a political community. These people can be understood stateless in the sense that they do not have effective access to rights or state protection. People in this situation often live in spaces of containment and confinement for years, sometimes decades, occasionally generations. Less than 1% of official refugees will ever be resettled in the West. In my paper, I argue that this problem – large-scale, protracted refugee situations – is distinct from questions about the ethics of admission and asylum. I argue that this phenomenon is not treated with the moral seriousness that such a fundamental and systematic degradation of human dignity ought to be. The goal of this paper is to understand how we have arrived at this situation, why it is not given the moral and intellectual scrutiny that other global injustices have, and ultimately, how we may develop a more meaning normative framework in the future. Ultimately, I argue that we misunderstand the most pressing moral problem around global displacement: the problem is not that the global North don’t take in enough refugees; rather, its that we support a refugee regime that systematically undermines the rights of the displaced for the sake of protecting our sovereignty. I conclude by suggesting new moral obligations that my analysis brings to light. I argue that we have an obligation to reject long-term encampment as a “solution” for displacement and that we have an obligation to work towards a just refugee regime. Philosophers must contribute to the project of finding ethical norms to govern the treatment of involuntary migrants who are displaced for prolonged periods that nonetheless balances the reality of sovereignty.

Serena Parekh is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University in Boston. Prior to this, Professor Parekh taught at the University of Connecticut where she was jointly appointed in the Department of Philosophy and Human Rights Institute. Her primary philosophical interests are in social and political philosophy, feminist theory, and continental philosophy. Her book, Hannah Arendt and the Challenge of Modernity: A Phenomenology of Human Rights, was published by Routledge in 2008 and recently translated into Chinese. She has also published numerous articles on social and political philosophy in Hypatia, Philosophy and Social Criticism, and Human Rights Quarterly. Her current research focuses broadly on global justice, responsibility, and statelessness.

To request reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities and for any other questions regarding this event, please contact Lyndsay Nalbandian at


Lyndsay Nalbandian at

Human Rights Institute (primary), UConn Master Calendar

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