Thursday, 6th, 2-3.30pm, Georges C. Marshall Center

Politics of Migration and Exile

Moderated by Pierre-Cyrille Hautcoeur, President of the Écoles des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales

Contradictions from the start: the founding and foundering of the modern international refugee regime, by T. Alexander Aleinikoff, Columbia Law School, starting January 1st, 2017, University Professor at The New School and Director of the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility.


The international regime established in the 1950s to assist and protect refugees is failing. States are erecting barriers to the entry of refugees, inadequate funding means that emergency and longer-term needs go unmet, millions of refugees and other displaced persons live in “protracted” situations with little hope of solutions, and populist politics foster virulent attacks on refugees and international efforts to assist them.  

The current crisis has many causes, but I will focus on compromises made in the establishment of the refugee regime as playing a major role. In essence, the international community (in reality, Western European states and the United States) sought to create norms and institutions that remedied the rightlessness of, and deprivations faced by, refugees without undermining core notions of state sovereignty.  Thus, the central protection guaranteed to refugees was the right not to be returned to a state in which they would face persecution; but no right was provided to enter another state to apply for asylum.  Furthermore, solutions to long-term refugee situations require “international burden-sharing,” but no formal structure or methodology for accomplishing burden-sharing was established.

In the early years, these compromises were worked through without threatening the overall system—largely because “defectors” from Eastern European states were welcomed in the West and refugee populations in developing countries generally found protection in the global South. But the “tributes” to state sovereignty present at the creation now haunt the international system. Refugees face rejection at state borders, are routinely denied rights in countries of first asylum, and live “lives in limbo” as the international community fails to provide collective solutions. Simply increasing funding and resettlement efforts—as the US has sought to do in the summit convened at the UN in September—will not mediate these contradictions.


T. Alexander Aleinikoff, a leading scholar in immigration and refugee law, is currently Visiting Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and Huo Global Policy Initiative Research Fellow at Columbia's Global Policy Initiative. As of January 1 2017, Alexander Aleinikoff will become director of the Zolberg Institute for Migration and Mobility at The New School. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

From 2010 to June 2015, he served as the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva and was on assignment with the UN Secretariat in New York from July to December, 2015.

Prior to his service with the U.N., Aleinikoff was a professor at Georgetown University Law Center (1997-2010), where he also served as dean and Executive Vice President of Georgetown University (2004-2010). Aleinikoff was a professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School from 1981 to 1997. Aleinikoff was co-chair of the Immigration Task Force for President Barack Obama's transition team. From 1994 to 1997, he served as the general counsel, and then executive associate commissioner for programs, at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Aleinikoff has published numerous books and articles in the areas of immigration law, refugee law, citizenship, race, statutory interpretation, and constitutional law. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and Swarthmore College, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts of Sciences in 2014.

La « crise » des migrants et ses effets sur la communauté universitaire et scientifique française : entre invisibilité et hospitalité, by Liora Israël, EHESS


The recent arrival of numerous asylum seekers in Europe from the Middle East and Africa is not simply an issue of migration policy or social policy. While the situation does involve welcoming and lodging these individuals in a decent manner, a number of asylum seekers, given their age and social origins, have had their academic research or scientific careers interrupted by exile. The French academic community has not yet adopted a concerted response to this situation. Thus far, we can observe two types of initiatives that developed spontaneously and in parallel: on one hand, there are greeting programs for students that generally include waiving tuition fees and offering French language classes; on the other hand, there are local initiatives to welcome or permanently install researchers who are unable to return to their homelands. Thus far, the fields of archaeology and classical studies that specialize in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq have been most acutely aware of the situation and have mobilized by finding grants or other often precarious sources of funding.

Thanks to the active support of students and staff at EHESS, a program for welcoming exiled students and researchers has been in effect for one year. I will introduce its most important features, our accomplishments, and the challenges we are facing, before presenting the program introduced by the Minister of State for Higher Education and Research, Thierry Mandon, that aims to create a national initiative to welcome researchers and students.




Liora Israël is an Associate Professor of sociology at EHESS, where she has taught since 2006 and is the currently serving as the EHESS Bureau Secretary. In this capacity, she has taken part in designing a program to welcome exiled students and researchers to EHESS. She is currently drafting a report on the creation of a French national initiative to welcome researchers at risk.  

Israël previously served as assistant director of the Maurice Halbwachs Center (ENS-CNRS-EHESS) (2010-2014), and is now a member of the PRO (Professions, Réseaux, Organisations) team at the same Center. From August to December 2014 she was a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Law of Berkeley University (California). In 2014, she co-founded with Corentin Durand the EHESS Ouscipo (l’Ouvroir de Sciences Sociales Potentielles), which aims to promote collaboration between researchers in the social sciences and society as a whole.

Israël’s doctoral thesis explored resistance in the judicial world under the Vichy regime, and was published in 2005 under the title Robes noires, années sombres. Avocats et magistrats en résistance pendant la Seconde guerre mondiale, Éditions Fayard. Her current research focuses on the political mobilization of the law in the 1970s.  She is the author of two books (including L’arme du droit, published by Presses de Sciences Po, translated into Italian and Chinese) and has co-coordinated several collective publications. She has also edited or co-edited several journal issues, including “the cause of Law” (Politix, 2003), “Professions and public commitment” (Sociétés contemporaines, 2009), “Defending the public enemy” (Le mouvement social, 2012), and “Jean-Jacques de Félice, lawyer and militant for Human Rights” (Matériaux pour l’histoire de notre temps, 2015).

In 2008, she received the international Adam Podgórecki prize, granted by the Research Committee on the Sociology of Law within the International Sociology Association. She contributes to several editorial boards in this domain, including the Canadian Journal of Law and Society, and the Law & Society Review. She was elected as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Law and Society Association for 2014-2016.

Vivre et se reconstruire en exil: le cas de journalistes exilés à la Maison des Journalistes à Paris, by Veli Pehlivan, EHESS


The concept of exile recalls ideas of constraint, urgency, or obligation tied to physical displacement.  From Hannah Arendt to Walter Benjamin, Vladimir Nabokov to Nazim Hikmeta, the number of authors, playwrights, essayists, and journalists who have lived in exile are numerous. Edward Said, who lived in exile himself, defined exile as “one of the saddest fates” and the exiled person as someone who “never felt at home, and was always at odds with the environment, inconsolable about the past, bitter about the present and the future.” The construction of a new life is a complex change in which the exiled population must seek balance in their dual trajectories, between their exiled condition in regards to their home country, and their status of refugee in the new society.

This contribution will examine the paths taken by political refugees living in the Maison des Journalistes, which receives and supports journalists forced to flee their countries due to their professional activities. It will seek to understand how identities are constructed in exile and how a biographical coherence might nonetheless emerge. It will interrogate the modalities of self-presentation in light of the structures surrounding the subjects where they live or once lived. Finally, it will identify the primary difficulties facing the exiled journalists in their new societies, and examine how they can be overcome to build new daily lives.



Veli Pehlivan is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the Centre d’analyse et d’intervention sociologiques (CADIS) at the l’EHESS in Paris. Under the direction of Nilüfer Göle, Pehlivan is currently preparing a thesis entitled, “Espace public et la figure de la 'victime': le cas des journalistes exilés à Paris.”  As a specialist on the question of exile and life narratives, he finished a DEA degree in Sociology (EHESS, 2007) entitled, “Crime d’Honneur dans l’espace public européen.” His research fields focus on questions of exile and immigration, the figure of the refugee and victim, in addition to self-victimization, the victimization of others, subjectivity, and life narratives. He has participated in numerous conferences in France and England, including ‘Terrains d’Asiles : Corps, Espaces, Politiques’ (EHESS, 2008), TERRE D’ASILE, Historical Perspectives on Refuge & Asylum in 20th Century France (The University of London Institute, 2015).