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"Refugees, Democracy, and the Law": Webinar Video

We are delighted having guests from all over the word on the last online event organized by IIMSR. The topic "Refugees, Democracy, and the Law" was presented by Dr. Dana Schmalz on occasion of the issue of her book "Refugeer Democracy, and the Law" in 2020.

Dr. Schmalz took us into a vivid discussion of democratic theory questions in relation to refugee law. She spoke about the evolution of refugee law and its core issues today, as well as central lines in the debate about democracy and migration.


If you missed this event, you are welcome to watch the recording on it here:




About the Book


Dana Schmalz’ book "Refugees, Democracy and the Law. Political Rights at the Margins of the State" (2020) provides an in-depth discussion of democratic theory questions in relation to refugee law. It introduces readers to the evolution of refugee law and its core issues today, as well as central lines in the debate about democracy and migration.


Refugees are a special case for democracy. Having fled one state and not yet fully arrived in another, they fall outside the main structures of political participation. The situation of refugees is shaped by law in various ways: by border regulations and restrictions on migration on the one hand, by rules and procedures on refugee protection on the other. However, these rules are created in state procedures, in which the voice of refugees themselves is largely left out. The book views the relationship of refugees and democracy not as one of incompatibility, but as one of instability and unsettledness. The horizon of democracy is self-government: that those affected by laws also have a say in its formation. At the same time, democracy requires institutions and rules of participation, which in turn have to be open to challenge and revision. Asking about the conditions of refugees’ political voice prompts an inquiry into the edges of democracy and the dynamic at these edges. In this inquiry, the book is interested in the role of law. How does law enable, or hinder refugees to have a political voice? The book explores how the marginal position of refugees vis-à-vis democracy is addressed in international refugee law. It takes a reconstructive approach, showing that refugees’ democratic participation is not an abstract demand but a question that arises within the legal developments and debates. Refugee protection is a field, the book argues, in which the tension between the universalism at the basis of modern law and its territorial delimitations is negotiated. For that reason, refugees are an insightful case for thinking about the conditions of democracy in a globalized world.


About Dr. Dana Schmalz

Dana Schmalz is a scholar of international law and legal philosophy, her work centers on international and European refugee law, fundamental rights, democratic theory, and critical approaches to international law. She holds a Ph.D. in law from the University of Frankfurt (2017) and an LL.M. in Comparative Legal Thought from Cardozo Law School, New York. Her book “Refugees, Democracy and the Law. Political Rights at the Margins of the State” was published in 2020. Most of her writings can be found on her academia-profile.

Dana Schmalz is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg/Berlin. Her current research project “International law and population growth: An analysis and theoretical inquiry” is supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation following her stay at Columbia Law School (2019/2020). Before that, Dana Schmalz has been a visiting professor (Lehrstuhlvertretung) at the University of Bremen (2019), a visiting scholar at the Zolberg Institute for Migration and Mobility at the New School, New York (2018-2019), a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen (2017-2018), and a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg/Berlin (2011-2016). Dana Schmalz is a founder and the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Voelkerrechtsblog and an associate editor for migration and refugee law at Verfassungsblog. She belongs to the editors of Kritische Justiz.

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