Globalisation Expert Saskia Sassen of Columbia University Kicks off TCD-UCD Sociology Public Lecture Series

Posted on: 22 January 2013

The renowned sociologist from Columbia University, Saskia Sassen, gave the inaugural lecture in a new sociology public lecture series organised by the Department of Sociology at Trinity College Dublin and the School of Sociology at University College Dublin. Her keynote on ‘Expulsions: The Fifth Circle of Hell’ attracted an audience of 400 last week.

The new lecture series, which is supported by the Policy Institute at Trinity College Dublin, brings internationally acclaimed speakers to Dublin to discuss contemporary social issues. The series provides a platform to deepen research and teaching synergies between TCD and UCD.

“The aim of the series is to offer new ideas on cutting-edge sociological issues, and to promote informed and non-partisan debate,” explained the Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr Patrick Prendergast on launching the event.

It  was also  the inaugural lecture of the ‘Euro-Visions IIIS-TLRH Public Lecture Series on Europe’ an associated event of the Irish Presidency of the EU hosted at Trinity.

Dr Patrick Prendergast, Provost TCD, Prof Saskia Sassen, Columbia University, Dr Daniel Faas, Department of Sociology TCD, and Dr Brian Nolan, UCD. 

The Dutch-American sociologist and author is widely known for her works on ‘The Global City’ (Princeton University Press, 1991/2001), ‘Cities in a World Economy’ (Sage 2012), ‘A Sociology of Globalization (Sage 2012) and ‘Territory, Authority, Rights: From medieval to Global Assemblages’ (Princeton University Press 2008). Last year, Sassen was selected as one of the 100 Top Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine. 

In her keynote, Sassen raised the challenge for sociologists whether we are witnessing a new form of colonialism. She argued that in the last two decades there has been a sharp growth in the numbers of people that have been ‘expelled’. Sassen uses the term ‘expulsion’ to describe a diversity of conditions: the growing numbers of the abjectly poor, of the displaced in poor countries who are warehoused in formal and informal refugee camps, of the minoritised and persecuted in rich countries who are warehoused in prisons, of workers whose bodies are destroyed on the job and rendered useless at far too young an age, able-bodied surplus populations warehoused in ghettoes and slums. 

One major trend for Sassen is the repositioning of what had been framed as sovereign territory into land for sale on the global market- land in Sub-Saharan Africa, in Central Asia and in Latin America bought by rich investors and rich governments to grow food, to access underground water tables, and to access minerals and metals. Sassen argued that these diverse developments amount to a logic of expulsion, signaling a deeper systemic transformation in advanced capitalism, one documented in bits and pieces but not quite narrated as an overarching dynamic that is taking us into a new phase of global capitalism. 

The series features two public lectures per term with one event hosted at TCD and the other at UCD. The next event takes place on Wednesday 13th February at 7pm in the J.M. Synge Theatre at Trinity College Dublin. Professor Les Back of Goldsmiths University of London will talk about: ‘Live Sociology: The Value of Sociological Attentiveness in an Age of Information Overload’.