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The keynote speaker Saskia Sassen is considered one of the greatest sociologists in the world. She is a researcher and author focused on globalization and transnational processes such as immigration, global cities, terrorism.
She is the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. She is a student of cities, immigration, and states in the world economy, with inequality, gendering and digitization, three key variables running though her work.
Born in the Netherlands, she grew up in Argentina and Italy, studied in France, was raised in five languages, and began her professional life in the United States. She is the author of eight books and the editor or co-editor of three books. Together, her authored books are translated in over twenty languages.
In each of the four major completed projects that comprise her 30 years of research, Sassen starts with a thesis that posits the unexpected and the counterintuitive in order to cut through established “truths.” These projects engendered four major books and a new major project “An Ethics of the City.”
Her books, mainly focussed on globalization, have been translated into 22 languages and made her one of the most cited authors in globalization studies. Another fundamental aspect in Sassen’s work is to have directed her research towards the questions of power and social inequality deriving from the processes of globalization.
Her first book was “The Mobility of Labor and Capital”(Cambridge University Press 1988). Her thesis went against the established notion that foreign investment would prevent emigration from less developed countries.
She posited and documented that foreign investment in less developed countries actually tends to raise the likelihood of emigration ifthat investment goes to labor-intensive sectors and/or devastates the traditional economy. In brief, her thesis went against established notions that such investment would retain potential emigrants.
InTerritory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages(Princeton University Press 2006), her thesis is that today’s partial but foundational global transformations, from economic to cultural and subjective, actually take place largely inside thick national settings and institutions. But they do so in ways that denationalize the national.
She conceptualizes denationalizing dynamics as operating in the shadows of the more familiar globalizing dynamics. This denationalizing of what was historically constructed as national is more significant than much of the self-evidently global. A guiding question running through this book is how complex systems change. One key finding is that in complex systems such change is not necessarily highly visible: it often consists of existing systemic capabilities shifting to a new set of organizing logics — in ways that make those capabilities look as more of the same.
Her most recent project is developed in two books: Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy (Harvard University Press/Belknap 2014), and the forthcoming Ungoverned Territories? (Harvard University Press 2018). The organizing thesis in Expulsions is that our global modernity is marked by systemic expulsions of all sorts. Such systemic expulsions go well beyond simply more inequality, poverty, refugees in the global south, and so on. It is often our complex intermediary processes, requiring admirable types of talents and knowledge, which are facilitating brutal, often elementary, expulsions.
Besides English, she is fluent in Spanish, Italian and French, and good in Dutch and German. She also studied Russian and Japanese.
Professor Sassen has received many awards and honors, among them thirteen doctor honoris causa, over 25 named lectures, named one of the hundred women in science, the 2013 Principe de Asturias Prize in the Social Sciences, election as a Foreign Member of the Royal Academy of the Sciences of the Netherlands, made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French government; and most recently awarded The Edgar de Picciotto International Prize.