Didier Fassin

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Didier Fassin
Didier Fassin.tiff
Didier Fassin

(1955-08-30)August 30, 1955
Alma materPierre and Marie Curie University (MD)
École des hautes études en sciences sociales (PhD)
Scientific career
FieldsSociology, anthropology, medecine
InstitutionsÉcole des hautes études en sciences sociales
Institute for Advanced Study
Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris

Didier Fassin, born in 1955, is a French anthropologist and sociologist. He is currently the James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and holds a Direction of Studies in Political and Moral Anthropology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris.


Initially trained as a physician in Paris, Fassin practiced internal medicine as an infectious disease specialist at the Hospital Pitié-Salpétrière and taught public health at the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie. He has been the physician of the Home for the Dying in Calcutta and the initiator of a national program of prevention of rheumatic heart disease in Tunisia where it was the first cause of death among young adults. Later shifting to the social sciences, he received his M.A. from the University of Paris, and his PhD from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, writing his thesis on power relations and health inequalities in Senegal.[1]

After having been granted a fellowship by the French Institute for Andean Studies to investigate maternal mortality and living conditions among Indian women in Ecuador, Fassin became professor of sociology in 1991 at the University of Paris North. There, he created Cresp, the Center for Research on Social and Health Issues, working on public health problems such as the history of child lead poisoning in France and the politics of Aids in Sub-Saharan Africa.[2]

Elected in 1999 as director of studies in social anthropology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Fassin founded and directed from 2007 to 2010 Iris, the Interdisciplinary Research Institute for Social Sciences, in an effort to bring together anthropologists, sociologists, historians, political scientists and legal scholars around contemporary political and social issues.[3] He himself developed a long-term program exploring the multiple facets of humanitarianism in local and international policies, especially towards the poor, the immigrant and refugees, as well as victims of violence and epidemics.[4] In parallel, he launched a research project on borders and boundaries in an attempt to articulate the issues around immigration and racialization, which were at the time dealt with in separate fields.[5]

In 2008, Fassin received an Advanced Grant by the European Research Council for his program Towards a Critical Moral Anthropology.[6] To reappraise theoretical issues in the analysis of morals and moralities, he started an ethnographic research on police, justice and prison in France.[7] In 2009, he succeeded Clifford Geertz at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, and became the first James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science.[8] His inaugural public lecture was entitled “Critique of Humanitarian Reason”. In 2010, he became Visiting Professor at the Universities of Princeton and Hong Kong. In 2016, he received the Gold Medal of the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography, which is awarded every three years to an anthropologist.[9]

In France, Fassin has been involved in the politics of science, as a member of the Scientific Council of the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), and of the Scientific Council of the City of Paris. In 2006, he became the chair of the Committee for Humanities and Social Science in the French National Agency for Research. In the United States, as a member of the Committee of World Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association from 2010 to 2013, he was committed to the global exchange of knowledge and the reduction of the gap between the North and the South in the development of social science. This concern translated in 2015 in a three-year cycle Summer Program in Social Science for Latin American, Middle Eastern and African junior scholars.[10]

Apart from his academic career, Fassin has been involved in various solidarity non-governmental organizations in France. In 1996 he founded the Medico-social Unit Villermé at the Hospital Avicenne to provide health care to uninsured and undocumented patients. He was administrator and later Vice-president of MSF, Doctors Without Borders, from 1999 to 2003, and is currently President of Comede, the Medical Committee for the Exiles since 2006. A public intellectual, he frequently intervenes in the media on issues related to his research such as immigration, asylum, discrimination, social justice, law and order policies.[11][12] He regards the social sciences as a form of “presence to the world”[13]


  • 2007: Chevalier des Palmes Académiques(French distinction for commitment to higher education)
  • 2008: Laureate of the Advanced Grant Ideas by the European Research Council for Towards a Critical Moral Anthropology.
  • 2010: Douglass Prize for the Best Book in the Anthropology of Europe for The Empire of Trauma
  • 2010: France Culture Award of the Best Essay for Les Nouvelles Frontières de la Société Française
  • 2012: Honorable Mention for the Bateson Prize by the Society for Cultural Anthropology for Humanitarian Reason
  • 2016: Vega Gold Medal, Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography, awarded for scientific contribution to anthropology »

Major publications[edit]

As Author[edit]

  • Pouvoir et Maladie en Afrique. Anthropologie Sociale de la Banlieue de Dakar, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1992.
  • L'Espace Politique de la Santé. Essai de Généalogie, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1996.
  • Les Enjeux Politiques de la Santé. Etudes Sénégalaises, Équatoriennes et Françaises, Paris: Karthala, 2000.
  • When Bodies Remember. Experience and Politics of AIDS in South Africa, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007 (French version La Découverte 2006).
  • The Empire of Trauma. An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood (with Richard Rechtman), Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009 (French version L’Empire du Traumatisme, Flammarion 2007).
  • Humanitarian Reason. A Moral History of the Present, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011 (French version La Raison Humanitaire, Hautes Etudes-Gallimard-Seuil 2010).
  • Enforcing Order. An Anthropology of Urban Policing, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013 (French version La Force de l’Ordre. Une Anthropologie de la Police des Quartiers, Paris: Seuil, 2011).
  • At the Heart of the State.The Moral World of Institutions, with Yasmine Bouagga et al. (French version Juger, Réprimer, Accompagner. Essai sur la morale de l’État, Paris: Seuil, 2011).
  • Four Lectures on Ethics. Anthropological Perspectives, with Michael Lambek, Veena Das and Webb Keane, Chicago: Hau Books.
  • Prison Worlds. An Anthropology of the Carceral Condition, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016 (French version L’Ombre du monde. Une anthropologie de la condition carcérale, Paris: Seuil, 2011).

As editor[edit]

  • Sociétés, Développement et Santé (with Yannick Jaffré), Paris: Ellipses, 1990.
  • Mujeres de los Andes. Condiciones de Vida y Salud (with Anne-Claire Defossez et Mara Viveros), Bogotá: Universidad Externado de Colombia-IFEA, 1992.
  • Les Lois de l'Inhospitalité. Les Politiques de l’Immigration à l'Épreuve des Sans-papiers (with Alain Morice et Catherine Quiminal), Paris: La Découverte, 1997.
  • Les Figures Urbaines de la Santé Publique. Enquête sur des Expériences Locales, Paris: La Découverte, 1998.
  • Les Inégalités Sociales de Santé (with Annette Leclerc, Hélène Grandjean, Thierry Lang et Monique Kaminski), Paris: Inserm-La Découverte, 2000.
  • Critique de la Santé Publique. Une Approche Anthropologique (avec Jean-Pierre Dozon), Paris: Balland, 2001.
  • Le Gouvernement des Corps (with Dominique Memmi), Paris: Editions de l’Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 2004.
  • Les Constructions de l’Intolérable. Etudes d’Anthropologie et d’Histoire sur les Frontières de l’Espace Moral (with Patrice Bourdelais), Paris: La Découverte, 2005.
  • De la Question Sociale à la Question Raciale ? Représenter la Société Française (with Eric Fassin), Paris: La Découverte, 2006, 2nd edition 2010.
  • Les Politiques de l’Enquête. Epreuves Ethnographiques (with Alban Bensa), Paris : La Découverte, 2008.
  • Contemporary States of Emergency. The Politics of Military and Humanitarian Interventions (with Mariella Pandolfi), New York: Zone Books, 2010.
  • L’Etat des Savoirs de la Santé Publique (with Boris Hauray), Paris: La Découverte, 2010.
  • Les Nouvelles Frontières de la Société Française, Paris : La Découverte, 2010., 2nd édition 2012.
  • Économies morales Contemporaines (with Jean-Sébastien Eideliman), Paris : La Découverte, 2012.
  • Moral Anthropology. A Companion, Malden : Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
  • Moral Anthropology; A Critical Reader, with Samuel Lézé, London: Routledge, 2014.


  1. ^ "Didier Fassin, anthropologue engagé | CNRS Le journal". Lejournal.cnrs.fr (in French). Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  2. ^ "Hilary Mantel reviews 'When Bodies Remember' by Didier Fassin, translated by Amy Jacobs and Gabrielle Varro and 'The Invisible Cure' by Helen Epstein · LRB 20 September 2007". Lrb.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  3. ^ "iris : Accueil". Iris.ehess.fr. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  4. ^ "The Politics of Sacred Life". Public Books. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  5. ^ Fassin, Didier (October 2011). "Policing Borders, Producing Boundaries. The Governmentality of Immigration in Dark Times". Annual Review of Anthropology. 40: 213–226. doi:10.1146/annurev-anthro-081309-145847.
  6. ^ "A Critical Anthropology of Morals | Institute for Advanced Study". Morals.ias.edu. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  7. ^ "Enforcing Order: An Ethnography of Urban Policing, by Didier Fassin | Times Higher Education (THE)". Times Higher Education. 2013-08-19. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  8. ^ "News | Institute for Advanced Study". Ias.edu. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  9. ^ Alexandra Altman (2015-12-14). "Didier Fassin Awarded Gold Medal of the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography | Institute for Advanced Study". Ias.edu. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  10. ^ "SPSS 2015-17 | School of Social Science". Sss.ias.edu. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-11. Retrieved 2016-05-03.
  12. ^ "Intellectuels français, la relève | Le Magazine Littéraire". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2016-03-11. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  13. ^ "Les sciences sociales comme présence au monde - La Vie des idées". Laviedesidees.fr. Retrieved 2017-06-05.

External links[edit]