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Rethinking the status of refugees beyond the camp: a Lefortian response to Agamben’s critique of democracy and human rights


"Liberal theorists of democracy traditionally believe in the rule of law and universal human rights. Yet a group of anti-liberal thinkers such as Agamben have recently argued that rights are not universal but depend on political institutions that can arbitrarily take away these rights. For them, the current plight of refugees, asylum seekers and illegal immigrants in Western democracies illustrates their point. It shows that our democracies allow for an increasing lawless space (‘the camp’) where people become rightless and are exposed to the arbitrary intervention of a police force. Yet I believe that the radical anti-liberal view is as problematic as the liberal view it seeks to replace. In my project, I will therefore develop an alternative theoretical framework that offers a ‘third way’ that would criticize liberal theory without therefore embracing the radical conclusions of anti-liberal critics. To develop this alternative, I will draw on the political theorist Lefort. I will first develop an alternative to Agamben’s theory based on Lefort’s paradigm and then see what this alternative model would mean for our understanding of refugees and illegal immigrants. I will then examine how the alternative model could respond to four major objections and publish the research-results."

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Oude markt 13
3000 Leuven

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Vlaams-Brabant Arr. Leuven
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Stijn Delauré (Dr.)
EU contribution
No data