Law and Critique

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 249–270 | Cite as

Accidents, Agency and Asylum: Constructing the Refugee Subject

  • Simon Behrman


Refugee law demands that the asylum seeker demonstrate an extremely limited and distorted form of agency that is encapsulated within the legal definition of the refugee. Such a framework also denies the role of the accidental in the refugee experience. I argue that the problem lies at the heart of the legal form, as constructed under capitalism. The sans-papiers show us the potential for refugees themselves to reconstruct a subjectivity that transcends the distorted form of agency and the false dichotomy between the accidental and agency found in law, through their rejection of legal definitions and the re-emergence of themselves as political subjects.


Agency Marxism Refugees Sans-papiers 



I would like to thank the organisers and participants at the December 2011 University of Melbourne Doctoral Forum on Legal Theory, who first encouraged me to think through some of the issues dealt with here. I am also grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their very useful comments and suggestions. The usual disclaimer about authorial responsibility of course applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law SchoolUniversity of East Anglia, Norwich Research ParkNorwichUK

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