Legal Subjectivity and the Refugee

Simon Behrman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The development of international refugee law since 1951 has long been seen as a necessary and positive thing for refugees. Without legal rights, so it is argued, the refugee is helpless before hostile host communities and capricious governments. The tragedy of recent decades has been the diminution of these rights and the dilution of the guarantees of the 1951 Convention. However, this article argues that the ability to receive asylum was not as universally lacking prior to the advent of refugee law as is frequently suggested. The article interrogates the extent to which it is the legal form that is in fact complicit in the downfall of the refugee. Using a variety of perspectives, it is argued that the way out of today’s desperate state of refugeehood does not lie primarily in the demand for greater legal rights. Rather, the rejuvenation of the refugee as a political subject is suggested as a more effective way forward.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Refugee Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Cite this