Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture 2010
This podcast was recorded at the Refugee Studies Centre’s Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture which was on Wednesday 26th May 2010 at St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford. The Elizabeth Colson Lecture is held annually in honour of Professor Elizabeth Colson, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology and Member, The Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University gave this years lecture on the subject of The complexity of Powerlessness: What makes human rights law perform?
Saskia Sassen spoke about the limits of power and the complexities of powerlessness – the direct or mediated resistances that the powerless can deploy knowingly or not. Immigration and human rights help to explore these more abstract issues – especially in powerful countries vis-à-vis undocumented workers, who are among the most vulnerable subjects in those same countries. And yet, under certain conditions, the powerless can make history, even if they do not gain power in this process. She discussed two institutional domains where powerlessness can become complex and the powerless have made history.