Ayten Gundogdu

Assistant Professor of Political Science

Political Theory

Ayten Gündoğdu, assistant professor of political science, joined Barnard’s faculty in 2008.  At Barnard she teaches courses on political theory and human rights.

Professor Gündoğdu’s current research centers on critical approaches to human rights, contemporary problems of citizenship, and political and ethical dilemmas of international migration. She has recently published a book titled Rightlessness in an Age of Rights (Oxford University Press, 2015ISA Theory Honorable Mention; Choice Outstanding Academic Title). The book offers a critical inquiry of human rights by engaging with the works of twentieth-century political theorist Hannah Arendt. At the center of this critical inquiry are the challenging questions posed by the contemporary rights struggles of asylum-seekers, refugees, and undocumented immigrants. Examining immigration detention, deportation, refugee encampment, and demands for regularization, the book revisits and revises Arendt's key concepts and arguments, including her phenomenological account of the human condition, her critical analysis of “the social question,” and her puzzling proposal of “a right to have rights.”

Professor Gündoğdu is the recipient of a postdoctoral fellowship from the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University, Sawyer Dissertation Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and several other grants and awards from Barnard College and the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. 


  • Rightlessness in an Age of Rights: Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants (Oxford University Press, 2015) Link
  • “A Revolution in Rights: Reflections on the Democratic Invention of the Rights of Man,” Law, Culture and the Humanities, vol. 10, no. 3 (October 2014): 367-379 (Access online)
  • “Statelessness and the Right to Have Rights.” In Hannah Arendt: Key Concepts, ed. Patrick Hayden (Acumen Publishing, 2014) Link
  • “Potentialities of Human Rights: Agamben and the Narrative of Fated Necessity,” Contemporary Political Theory, vol. 11, no. 1 (February 2012): 2-22 (Access online)
    • For a longer version, see: “Potentialities of Second Nature: Agamben on Human Rights.” In Second Nature: Rethinking the Natural Through Politics, ed. Lida Maxwell, Laura Ephraim, and Crina Archer (Fordham University Press, 2013), pp. 104-126. Link
  • ‘Perplexities of the Rights of Man’: Arendt on the Aporias of Human Rights,European Journal of Political Theory, vol. 11, no. 1 (January 2012): 4-24 (Access online)
    • Reprinted in The Aporia of Rights: Explorations in Citizenship in the Era of Human Rights, ed. Anna Yeatman and Peg Birmingham (Bloomsbury, 2014) Link
  • “Arendt on Culture and Imperialism: Response to Klausen,” Political Theory, vol. 39, no. 5 (October 2011): 661-667 (Access online)
  • [Co-authored with Raymond D. Duvall and Kartik Raj] “Borders, Power and Resistance: Bounding and Challenging Europe." In Europe and Its Boundaries, ed. Andrew Davison and Himadeep Muppidi (Lexington Books, 2009), pp. 225-241. Link
Academic Focus: 
  • Human rights, humanitarianism, and international ethics
  • Political theory of Hannah Arendt
  • Politics and ethics of migration
  • Cosmopolitanism and its critics
  • Modern, contemporary, and continental political theory
  • Democratic theory and theories of citizenship
  • History of political thought

You can find selected syllabi on-line.

  • POLS V 1013 Political Theory
  • POLS BC 3410 Colloquium on Human Rights in a Diverse World
    (Cross-listed by the Human Rights Program)
  • POLS BC 3761 Senior Research Seminar in Political Theory
  • FYSB BC 1289 First-Year Seminar: Violence and Justice (syllabus)
  • POLS W 3002 Human Rights and Immigration
Presentations / Recent Lectures: 
  • “When Compassion Turns Cruel: Arendtian Reflections on the Paradoxes of Humanitarianism.” Workshop on Cruelty. Stanford Humanities Center, Stanford University (Stanford, California, October 30, 2015).
  • “Between the Human and the Person: A Critical Inquiry into the Subject of Rights.” Department of Politics, Speaker Series. The New School University (New York, October 20, 2015).
  • “Borders of Humanity: Migration and the Crisis of Human Rights in Europe.” Symposium on Africa, Europe and the Mediterranean Migration Crisis. Rutgers University (New Brunswick, New Jersey, October 16, 2015).
  • “Borders of Humanity: Persons and Non-Persons in the Age of Human Rights.” Association for Political Theory (University of Colorado-Boulder, October 22-24, 2015). 
  • “Elusive Humanity: Claude Lefort and the Challenges of Undocumented Immigrants to Human Rights.” Western Political Science Association (Las Vegas, Nevada, April 2-4, 2015).
  • “Democracy as a Theater of Contestation: Claude Lefort and the Challenges of a Politics of Human Rights.” American Political Science Association (Washington, DC, August 28-31, 2014). 
  • “Arendt’s Labor.” Northeastern Political Science Association (Philadelphia, PA, November 14-16, 2013).
  • “Disagreeing with Rancière: Political Subjectivation and the Challenges of Staging Equality.” Association for Political Theory, Vanderbilt University (October 10-12, 2013).
  • “Displacing Personhood: Human Rights, Migration, and the Question of Extraterritorial Jurisdiction.” Research Workshop: The Public Authority in the Era of Globalization, Whitlam Institute, University of Western Sydney (Australia, August 12-14, 2013).
  • “What is ‘Political’ About Human Rights?  A Critical Assessment of the Rawlsian Arguments.” Association for Political Theory, University of South Carolina (October 11-13, 2012).
  • “On Persons, Semi-Persons, and Non-Persons: Arendtian Reflections on Rightlessness in an Age of Rights.” Workshop in Applied Philosophy: Global Justice and Ethics of Exclusion, Northeastern University (Boston, September 28-30, 2012).
  • “Agreeing and Disagreeing with Rancière: Hannah Arendt on the Politics and Anti-Politics of Human Rights.” Western Political Science Association (Portland, March 22-24, 2012).
  • “In Defense of Groundless Claims: Hannah Arendt and ‘A Right to Have Rights.’” American Political Science Association (Seattle, Washington, September 1-4, 2011).

Updated on January, 2015 by Anne Wolff-Lawson



Tel 212.854.4036
Fax 212.854.3024

Office Hours: 

Spring 2016: Thursdays, 12-2 p.m.

LeFrak 234


Ph.D., University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


B.A., Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey

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