Candidate Job Talk Q&A: Dr. Azar Masoumi Presents “The Paradox of Refugee Protection”

May 25, 2020 at 3:00 PM

Location:Online (please contact Kimberley for access to the job talk and Q&A session)

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology Presents

Dr. Azar Masoumi
Assistant Professor in Sociology, Acadia University

The Paradox of Refugee Protection

Over the course of the past few decades, access to refugee rights has been both expanded and restricted across the liberal democratic world. On the one hand, groups that previously had no ground for protection, such as domestically abused women and folks with non-normative genders and sexualities, are now commonly considered legitimate refugees. On the other hand, access to refugee systems and rights has become increasingly restricted. I take Canada as the site of my study to examine these paradoxical developments in the past thirty years. I draw on archival, observational, interview, media and organizational data to argue that the Canadian refugee protection regime is a dynamic articulation (Hall 1985) of an expansionist and humanitarian impetus as well as a state-centric and restrictionist compulsion. I suggest that these contradictory impulses are symptomatic of the paradoxical project of state-controlled refugee protection: the paradox of ensuring universal equality of rights through the exclusionary mechanisms of the nation-state. I further argue that the Canadian regime of refugee protection remains relatively stable despite its internal contradictions, by placing its conflictual impulses in systematic and structural arrangements. First, while expansions are primarily achieved in the field (Bourdieu 1993) of law, restrictions are, in large part, accomplished by the bureaucracy (Weber 1922). Second, while expansions in refugee rights emerge around tightly bounded categories of Convention refugees, gender-based claimants, and sexual orientation and gender identity refugees, restrictions concern ever-shifting, institutionally manufactured, and often nationally demarcated groups of excludable claimants. I suggest that these articulated arrangements maintain state-controlled refugee protection and keep refugee protection a promise that is never fulfilled.

The Job Talk is an important part of the interview process for the recently advertised appointment in Sociology (Social Theory).