How Social Analysis Sheds Light on the Edges of Society

The last two decades have seen a sharp growth in the number of people who have been driven out of human livelihoods and framings that protect their basic needs and rights. Among the expelled are the growing numbers of displaced people in poor countries who live in formal and informal refugee camps, minorities in rich countries who are kept in prisons, workers whose bodies are destroyed on the job, and populations warehoused in ghettoes and slums. The current so-called “migrant crisis” in Europe is perhaps the most acute version of a larger process of expulsion from life-spaces. War is its main reason, but also land grabs and both desertification and rising water levels that will further add to a massive loss of habitat. While the visible narrative is one of of progress and growing wealth, much of the tragedies mentioned above are invisible, existing in the shadows of the rapidly expanding high-quality built environments that are taking over more and more urban and suburban space. Saskia Sassen, a sociologist and professor at New York’s Columbia University is globally recognised for her contributions to urban and globalisation studies, and a long-time scholar of migration and mobility. In her her most recent work Expulsions – Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy, she argues that the usual terms of poverty and inequality are no longer adequate to describe the expulsion of entire populations from professional opportunities, living space – and unspoilt nature itself. In her Falling Walls talk, Saskia shares her thought-provoking research on the complex connections between overpowering financial, political and legal formations and the fate of the single individual.

Saskia Sassen is a student of cities, immigration, and states in the world economy, with inequality, gendering and digitization three key variables running though her work. Together, her authored books are translated in over twenty languages. Her most recent work focuses on hidden systems of brutality in the global economy. She is Professor of Sociology at Columbia University.

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