CFP - “In Search of Asylum: An Interdisciplinary Discussion”

Alexandra Locking's picture
Call for Papers
February 1, 2019
Illinois, United States
Subject Fields: 
Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Law and Legal History, Nationalism History / Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies, World History / Studies

2019 Annual Weissbourd Conference, University of Chicago

”In Search of Asylum: An Interdisciplinary Discussion”

Date of Conference: April 4-5, 2019

Proposals Due: February 1, 2019


“Asylum” has returned to the forefront of global political consciousness. In conjunction with highly charged terms like amnesty and assimilation, and such spectral figures as the “illegal alien” and the “migrant caravan,” asylum condenses a variety of anxieties about the changing parameters of power within a globalizing world and aspirations for a livable life. Under these circumstances asylum has taken on a new urgency, as either the moral imperative of our times or an unforgivable betrayal of the nation and its ideal.

But asylum has a longer history that belies the sense of crisis attached to the term at present. Deriving from the ancient Greek institution of ásylo, a sacred place for the persecuted and criminals to seek protection, asylum constituted a space of juridical exception and divinely-mandated mercy. In this and numerous other such figurations across the world both before and since, the impulse to protect strangers has manifested itself repeatedly. 

The 2019 Weissbourd Conference, hosted by the University of Chicago Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, will focus on situating the often rancorous contemporary debate over asylum in relation to historical expressions, theories, and practices of asylum. Our keynote speaker will be James Hathaway, the James E. and Sarah A. Degan Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, a leading authority on international refugee law and the founding director of the Program in Refugee and Asylum Law.

We invite proposals from across the humanities and social sciences to discuss the transformation of the concept of asylum and its implications for understanding the present.

Panels may consist of 2 or 3 presenters, with 15-20 minutes per presentation, to be followed by Q&A. To submit a proposal for a panel, please send a 500-word description of the panel, its purpose, and CV and abstracts for 2-3 presenters to To submit an individual paper proposal, please send a 300-word abstract and CV to

Contact Info: 

Alexandra Locking, Social Sciences Division

Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts

University of Chicago

Contact Email: