James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science
Didier Fassin is an anthropologist and a sociologist. Initially trained as a physician at Paris University Pierre et Marie Curie, he practiced internal medicine and taught public health, before turning to the social sciences. Having completed a Master’s degree at La Sorbonne and a PhD at EHESS, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, he became Professor at the University of Paris North and Director of Studies at EHESS. At CNRS, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, he created Iris, the Interdisciplinary Research Institute in Social Sciences, of which he was the Director. He was appointed at the Institute for Advanced Study as the James D. Wolfensohn Professor in 2009.
At the crossroads of two disciplines, he conducted studies in the field of medical anthropology, focusing on issues of power and inequalities, successively in Senegal, Ecuador and France. His research on the politics and experiences of AIDS in South Africa led him to develop the conceptual framework of the embodiment of history to account for the reproduction of social disparities and the production of heterodox interpretations in the context of the epidemic.
His interest in humanitarianism, and his involvement in the organization Médecins Sans Frontières, gave birth to a scientific program on the new forms of global interventionism, thus expanding his previous work on the politics of life. Attentive to lexical changes, their meaning for our apprehension of the world and their consequences for policies, he analyzed the reformulation of injustice as suffering, violence as trauma, and resistance as resilience through empirical studies realized in various international contexts of conflicts and disasters.
Supported by the program Ideas of the European Research Council, Didier Fassin’s most recent project explores how immigrants, refugees, and minorities are treated in France. Taking institutions such as the police, justice and prison, as sites of articulation between public policies and discourses and agents’ everyday practices, he proposes a political and moral anthropology of the state and reflects on the contribution of ethnography to democracy.