Associate Professor, Anthropology and Sociology of Development
The Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture is organised by the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University
Refugees are defined as people who have lost the protection of their state of origin and therefore fall under the responsibility of the international community, represented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They are situated at the interstice of national and international sovereignty.
Building on the Afghan case, one of the most massive forced displacements of population since World War II, the lecture will examine the growth of a global bureaucracy linked to the action of international and non-governmental organisations, philanthropic foundations, think tanks, and even private security contractors. They promote new forms of transnational governmentality that involve benevolence and welfare programmes but also coercion and repression; they may by turns support or challenge the more familiar territorialised expressions of state authority.
As frequently announced, are we really facing the ultimate crisis of the nation-state? Viewed from Afghanistan, the situation appears more complex and hardly novel. The state has probably never been the exclusive locus of legitimate power; a layered and divided national administration has always coexisted with alternative and segmented de facto sovereignties. But the general reinforcement of non-state forms of sovereignty does not prevent the pervasiveness of the state as the organisational entity of today’s international politics.
Far from being situated at the margins of today’s world, Afghanistan may paradoxically appear as a laboratory to highlight social and political processes present in much of the colonial and postcolonial world, and increasingly in the West.
Trained as a social anthropologist, Alessandro Monsutti became a member of the faculty in 2010, after having taught at the Graduate Institute of Development Studies from 2003 to 2007. He has been research fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (1999-2000) and Yale University (2008-2010), as well as a grantee of the MacArthur Foundation (2004-2006). He has also been Research Associate at the Refugee Studies Centre (University of Oxford) and the Laboratoire d’anthropologie des institutions et des organisations sociales (National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris).
In addition, he has worked as a consultant for organisations such as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation as well as the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit.
Alessandro Monsutti has conducted multi-sited research since the mid-1990s in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran to study the modes of solidarity and cooperation mobilised in a situation of conflict and forced migration. He has subsequently broadened the geographical scope of his research to include members of the Afghan diaspora living in Western countries. This led him to analyse war and post-conflict reconstruction in the light of the social networks and economic strategies developed by refugees and migrants, and – more generally – to address theoretical and methodological issues related to globalisation.
He is currently researching the political economy of Afghanistan through the circulation and use of transnational resources with the intention to highlight how the action of international agencies and non-governmental organisations contributes to the emergence of new forms of sovereignty and governance.
More information about Professor Monsutti
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Venue: Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW