Didier Fassin Appointed as Professor at Collège de France

Chair, Moral Questions and Political Issues in Contemporary Societies

Didier Fassin, James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School of Social Science, has been appointed as a professor at the Collège de France, as of October 1, 2022. He will hold the chair, Moral Questions and Political Issues in Contemporary Societies, while continuing his work with the Institute and creating opportunities for intellectual exchange. On March 30, 2023, Fassin will deliver his inaugural lecture, titled “The Social Sciences in a Time of Crisis.” 

Previously, Fassin was elected as the Collège de France Annual Chair of Public Health for the 2019–20 academic year, during which he delivered his inaugural lecture “The Inequality of Life.” This was followed by a series of eight lectures, “The Worlds of Public Health,” which was postponed until the spring of 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. His course at the Collège de France explored contemporary stakes in public health, with special reference to the pandemic.

Publishing prolifically in the domains of anthropology and sociology, Fassin has devoted his recent research to political and moral themes, conducting ethnographic work on policing, justice, prison, and punishment. A student of the public presence of the social sciences, he addresses multiple professional and lay audiences, and occasionally writes on society and politics for Le Monde, The New York Times, and The London Review of Books.

His most recent books include The Will to Punish (2018), Life: A Critical User's Manual (2018), and Death of a Traveller: A Counter Investigation (2021). With Institute scholars, he has coordinated publications such as Deepening Divides: How Territorial Borders and Social Boundaries Delineate Our World (2019), Pandemic Exposures: Economy and Society in the Time of Coronavirus (2021), and Crisis Under Critique: How People Assess, Transform, and Respond to Critical Situations (2022), displaying a spirit of collaboration, now expanded to the Collège de France.

Founded by King Francis I in 1530, the Collège de France is the most prestigious French public higher education institution, executing cutting-edge research which covers mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities. Knowledge produced in these fields is taught openly to everyone, at no cost, without the need for a degree, and the courses are broadcast on the French national radio station as well as on YouTube. A unique feature since its earliest days, the titles of the 50 chairs are not permanent, changing upon retirement of the incumbent to adapt to the latest developments in science and maintain a creative vigor. Former professors include Michel Foucault, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Pierre Bourdieu.