Serena Parekh is an associate professor of philosophy at Northeastern University in Boston, where she is the director of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program and editor of the American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy. Her primary philosophical interests are in social and political philosophy, feminist theory, and continental philosophy. Her most recent book, Refugees and the Ethics of Forced Displacement, was published with Routledge in 2017. Her first book, Hannah Arendt and the Challenge of Modernity: A Phenomenology of Human Rights, was published in 2008 and translated into Chinese. She has also published numerous articles on social and political philosophy in Hypatia, Philosophy and Social Criticism, and Human Rights Quarterly.
Areas of Expertise (9)
Boston College: Ph.D., Philosophy 2005
Catholic University of Leuven: M.A., Philosophy 2000
McGill University: B.A., Philosophy 1998
Media Appearances (5)
Does America have a moral obligation to resettle refugees?
Deseret News online
The first U.S. Supreme Court debate over President Donald Trump’s so-called travel ban took place this week, and while justices won't make a ruling until June, the decision is playing out at a time in which the refugee crisis in one of the impacted countries, Syria, may be getting worse.
Professor Calls Helping Refugees a Moral Obligation for Us
News @ Northeastern online
Serena Parekh, associate professor of philosophy at Northeastern University, believes that concerned citizens, community leaders, government officials, and others have a moral obligation to solve the global refugee crisis.
Our Moral Obligations to Refugees Go Beyond Giving Them Refuge
Philosophical discussions on refugees tend to focus on the moral duty to admit people fleeing persecution. In an extract from her new book, philosophy professor Serena Parekh argues for a wider debate, including the ethics of placing refugees in camps for long periods.
Our Moral Responsibility to Refugees Goes Beyond Resettlement
Politicians, concerned citizens, and the media have been hotly debating whether or not we have a moral responsibility to resettle refugees fleeing the Syrian war and if so, how many we ought to resettle. Charity groups, religious leaders and morally conscious celebrities are among the many people who are encouraging the US and other states to resettle more refugees. Equally vocal, however, are those who oppose large, and often even small scale, resettlement measures. Governors across the United States, for example, are trying to block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states.
Facing the global refugee crisis
MIT News online
The millions of Syrian refugees displaced by their country’s four-year civil war constitute a major tragedy — and could be a harbinger of even worse problems in the future, a group of scholars and relief workers suggested at an MIT forum on Wednesday.
Research Grants (1)
Safe places and politics of fear: An interdisciplinary investigation of “Sanctuary Cities”
Global Resilience Institute
This project considers ways that cities might become more resilient as they respond to various forms of oppression, human rights violations, and other unjust exercises of power worldwide. As an entry point to this issue, we focus on Boston and the concept of sanctuary cities. Our interdisciplinary research team will explore four aspects of the sanctuary cities concept and its implementation in Boston: (1) their philosophical grounding; (2) their intersecting legal frameworks, including infrastructure, immigrant status and law enforcement; (3) their impacts on health and well-being of city residents; and (4) their spatial dimensions. We will expand our knowledge base through engagement with local and national experts, convening a series of group consultations. Our team will initiate several pilot projects to further explore the impact and significance of the sanctuary city concept, leveraging ongoing research involving immigrants’ experiences of bias in Boston. Our exploration will involve travel to at least two other U.S. sanctuary cities to initiate a comparative analysis.
Denise M. Horn, Serena Parekh
This piece introduces the rationale for the special issue and highlights some of its key features. The authors have identified four broad themes in this issue, including displacement and gendered labor, displacement in art and literature, displacement embodied, and methods and theories to explore displacement. While recognizing that displacement has always been part of the human experience, these articles explore the gendered aspect of displacement as an emerging body of literature.
Melina Duarte, Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, Serena Parekh, Annamari Vitikainen
This introduction discusses some of the background assumptions and recent developments of the current refugee crisis. In this issue, the crisis is not viewed as a primarily European, Western or even Syrian, Afghan, or Iraqi crisis, but as a global crisis that raises complex ethical and political challenges for all humanity. The contributions to this thematic issue discuss a variety of questions relating to the rights and duties of different actors involved in the refugee crisis, and assess some of the suggested responses to handling the crisis.
This article examines our moral obligations to refugees and stateless people. I argue that in order to understand our moral obligations to stateless people, both de jure refugees and de facto stateless people, we ought to reconceptualize the harm of statelessness as entailing both a legal/political harm (the loss of citizenship) and an ontological harm, a deprivation of certain fundamental human qualities. To do this, I draw on the work of Hannah Arendt and show that the ontological deprivation has three distinct though interconnected elements: a reduction to the merely human or bare life, a separation from the common realm of humanity and abandonment, and the diminishment of agency or ability to act in the Arendtian sense. If we pull apart the legal/political harm of statelessness from the ontological harm, we are better able to see that we can address some of the features of the ontological deprivation even though we may not be able to rectify the political harm. I conclude this article by discussing some suggestions that follow from a recognition of the reality and harm of the ontological deprivation.
This essay explores recent scholarship on Hannah Arendt's contribution to the field of global justice. I show that many of Arendt's ideas have been brought to bear fruitfully on some of the most pressing global issues of our day. I turn first to the area in which Arendt has, arguably, been most influential, namely human right. I then look at recent scholarship on Arendt and various issues in global justice, including immigration, statelessness, human security, global poverty, political reconciliation, and global democracy. This essay offers a critical analysis of the ways that Arendt's work has been employed in discussions of global justice and highlights the contributions that she has made to this field of thought.© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Hannah Arendt, Serena Parekh
I argue in this paper that Hannah Arendt can make a valuable contribution to the debate over global justice and our obligations to the global poor. I maintain that Arendt’s work helps us to see how we might be able to combine the best impulses of both partialists and impartialists, and find a middle ground between taking seriously the importance of community as a human good, and the pressing ethical demands of noncitizens. I demonstrate that throughout her corpus, we see both impulses at work. Arendt’s appreciation for communitarianism is evident in a number of features of her political philosophy: the undesirability of a world state, and the necessity of a political community to secure human rights, a public sphere, and freedom. By contrast, Arendt’s cosmopolitanism is rooted in two features of her political phenomenology: that political action is about the world, a love of the world, and not particular people; and that human togetherness underlies action while human solidarity is its primary motivation. In addition to these two seemingly contradictory threads in Arendt’s work there is a third element: Arendt’s attempt to mediate between these two impulses through her concept of judgment. To judge means to start from your position within a community, and to take into consideration all other relevant perspectives, regardless of nationality. In this manner, we are able to take seriously what we owe to both our compatriots and people in dire need who are not fellow citizens. In short, in judging, though we begin from our partialist commitments, we must take on a larger cosmopolitan perspective, and ultimately mediate between the two perspectives. Consequently, I hope to show that Arendt can indeed make a contribution to the ongoing debate over our moral obligations to noncitizens in situations of dire necessity.