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Rightlessness in an Age of Rights$
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Ayten Gundogdu

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199370412

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199370412.001.0001

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Borders of Personhood

Borders of Personhood

(p.90) 3. Borders of Personhood
Rightlessness in an Age of Rights

Ayten Gündoğdu

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the contemporary manifestations of rightlessness by discussing the precarious legal personhood of asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. The human rights framework represents a shift from citizenship to personhood as the basis of entitlement to rights. To assess the significance and limits of this shift, the chapter turns to Arendt’s unique understanding of personhood as persona, which denotes an artificial mask that enables public appearance and allows one’s voice to sound through. Although personhood can no longer be officially taken away, it can be significantly undermined as a result of border control practices justified on the basis of territorial sovereignty. To make this point, the chapter analyzes two cases from the European Court of Human Rights: N. v. UK (2008) and Saadi v. UK (2008). These cases highlight that “the human person” at the heart of human rights law is subjected to various forms of stratification in the context of deportation and immigration detention. However, this argument does not lead to the conclusion that personhood is a legal mechanism that necessarily engenders violent exclusion—a point made by several critical legal scholars. From an Arendtian perspective, human beings can become equals only through artificial conventions such as personhood.

Keywords:   personhood, rightlessness, detention, deportation, territorial sovereignty, asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants, N. v. UK, Saadi v. UK

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