Didier Fassin

James D. Wolfensohn Professor, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Director of Studies, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

Didier Fassin
Didier Fassin

The Will to Punish

Lecture I: What is Punishment?
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House
with commentary by Bruce Western

Lecture II: Why Punish – and Whom?
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House
with commentary by Rebecca McLennan and David Garland

Seminar and Discussion with the commentators
Thursday, April 14, 2016
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House
with commentary by Bruce Western, Rebecca McLennan, and David Garland

The lectures and the seminar are free and open to the public.

Download and Listen

Contact us at gradlectures.berkeley.edu to request an audio file of this lecture.

Conversation with History Interview

About Didier Fassin

Fassin is the James D. Wolfensohn Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He was the founding director of the Interdisciplinary Research Institute for Social Sciences in Paris and the Vice-President of Doctors Without Borders. An anthropologist, sociologist and physician combined, he has conducted fieldwork in Senegal, Ecuador, South Africa, and France. Having practiced in internal medicine and public health before turning to the social sciences, Fassin centered his earlier work on medical anthropology, illuminating important dimensions of the AIDS epidemic, mortality disparities, and global health. In the past decade, he has developed a critical moral anthropology, exploring the historical, social, and political signification of moral forms involved in everyday judgment and the making of international relations. His most recent research is based on a four-year observation of the everyday life in a French short-term prison and forms part of an ethnography of the repressive side of the state including police and justice.

Dr. Fassin is a prolific writer. In addition to his many publications in French, some of his recently translated works include Prison Worlds: An Ethnography of the Carceral Condition (in press), At the Heart of the State. The Moral World of Institutions (2015), Enforcing Order: An Ethnography of Urban Policing (2013), Humanitarian Reason. A Moral History of the Present (2011), and The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood (2009). He has also edited twenty books and written numerous journal articles.

Didier Fassin received his Doctorate in Medicine in 1982 and his Master in Public Health in 1986, both from the University of Paris. He holds a Ph.D. in Social Sciences from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. Fassin has been awarded the Gold Medal of the Swedish Society of Anthropology and Geography in 2015 and the William A. Douglass Prize in Europeanist Anthropology 2010. He was made Chevalier des Palmes Académiques in 2007 in France.

About the Lectures

Societies have developed various ways of dealing with crime and more generally violations of their laws. Punishment is a common, albeit neither universal nor systematic, response that has long received much attention from moral philosophers and legal theorists. Based on historical and ethnological examples from the literature as well as genealogical analysis and ethnographic cases from fieldwork on police, justice and prison, mobilizing the work of social scientists as well as critical thinkers, the lectures will discuss the merits and limits of these approaches around three questions: what is punishment? why punish? and who is punished?

About the Commentators

Bruce Western

Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy, and
Professor of Sociology
Harvard University

Bruce Western’s research broadly examines how political and economic institutions shape social inequality. His current research studies the transition from prison to community for samples of men and women in Boston and New York.

 Western is the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice and Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard University. He received his B.A. from the University of Queensland, Australia and his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. From 1993 to 2007 he taught at Princeton University.

 Western’s first book is Between Class and Market: Postwar Unionization in the Capitalist Democracies (1997). His second book, Punishment and Inequality in America (2006), examined the emergence of mass incarceration in United States and was awarded the Michael Hindelang Award for outstanding publication from the American Society of Criminology. He served as Vice Chair of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Causes and Consequences of High Incarceration Rates in the United States.


Rebecca M. McLennan

Associate Professor, Department of History
University of California, Berkeley

Rebecca McLennan’s research centers on American legal, cultural, political and social history in relation to the world and current events. Her specific passions are crime and punishment, social theory, and law and society. She has published two books on American History – Becoming America: A History for the 21st Century, with David Henkin (2014) and The Crisis of Imprisonment: Protest, Politics, and the Making of the American Penal State, 1776-1941 (2008), and is presently writing a third book, on the juridification of nature in the long nineteenth century.

McLennan is an Associate Professor for the Department of History and affiliated faculty in Jurisprudence and Social Policy at Berkeley Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to arriving at UC Berkeley, McLennan taught at Harvard University and Columbia University. She received her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University.

She has been recognized for her written contributions with several distinctions and prizes including Columbia University’s Bancroft Award for best doctoral dissertation in historical studies, the 2009 John Philip Reid Book Award for best book in English in Anglo-American Legal History, and the Littleton-Griswold Prize in American Law and Society.


David Garland

Arthur T. Vanderbilt Professor of Law, and
Professor of Sociology
New York University School of Law

David Garland is known for his contributions to the sociology of punishment and for his historical studies of criminology, crime control, and criminal justice. He received a law degree and a PhD in socio-legal studies from the University of Edinburgh and a master’s in criminology from the University of Sheffield.

 Garland is the author of a series of award-winning books, including Punishment and Welfare: A History of Penal Strategies (1985); Punishment and Modern Society: A Study in Social Theory (1990); The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society (2001); and Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition (2010).

 He is a fellow of the British Academy; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the American Society of Criminology; and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He has also been a Davis Fellow at Princeton University’s History Department, a J. S. Guggenheim Fellow, and a Shimizu Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics.