Ayten Gundogdu

Associate Professor of Political Science

Barnard College

Heyman Center Fellow, 2018 - 2019

Project Title: "Between the Human and the Person: A Critical Inquiry into the Subject of Rights"

Ayten Gündoğdu is Associate Professor of Political Science at Barnard College-Columbia University. She is a political theorist whose research centers on modern and contemporary political thought, critical approaches to human rights and humanitarianism, politics of asylum and immigration, and contemporary transformations of citizenship, sovereignty, and law. In addition to several journal articles and book chapters on these topics, Gündoğdu is the author of Rightlessness in an Age of Rights: Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants (Oxford, 2015). The book offers a critical inquiry of human rights and reinterprets Arendt’s key concepts in the context of immigration detention, deportation, refugee camps, and struggles for regularization.

Gündoğdu’s current research revolves around the concept of “personhood”—the status assigned by law to rights-bearing entities. The divisions, hierarchies, and exclusions that continue to mark even the universalistic conceptions of personhood are at the center of her new book-length project on deaths resulting from increasingly lethal border control policies. Grappling with the regime of impunity in the case of migrant deaths, this project examines who gets to be recognized as a person equal before the law, how that recognition is tied to certain assumptions about sovereignty, jurisdiction, rights, and humanness, and how those assumptions render certain lives disposable and certain deaths unaccounted for.