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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities



When is Fear Real? Foreclosed Narratives in U.S. Asylum Law

Valentina Ramia • Stanford University

April 1st @ 6pm • Daniel Family Commons 

In 1951, the United Nations established that a refugee is a person with a “well-founded fear” of past and future persecution. Since then, recognizing fear, evaluating its plausibility, and verifying its rationality have been at the core of US asylum law. In the effort to turn an emotion into legal matter, experts strive to determine whose fear is pathological and whose fear is reasonable in the eyes of the law. This talk argues that when fear is assessed in the accounts of women fleeing gender violence, psychology and the law reveal their epistemic fissures. What happens when court officials claim someone’s narrative fails to “grasp reality”? What counts as a lapsus and is granted the malleability of error? What testimonies of persecution resist the demands of symbolization? This presentation will reflect on these questions from an ethnographic point of view, drawing from participant observation in New York immigration courtrooms.

Get Real
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Center for the Humanities · 95 Pearl Street, Middletown, CT 06459

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