Didier Fassin headshot

Didier Fassin

James D. Wolfensohn Professor
School of Social Science


Social Science

Didier Fassin is an anthropologist and a sociologist who has conducted fieldwork in Senegal, Ecuador, South Africa, and France. Trained as a physician in internal medicine and public health, he dedicated his early research to medical anthropology, focusing on the AIDS epidemic and health inequalities. He later developed the field of critical moral anthropology, which explores the historical, social, and political signification of moral forms involved in everyday judgment and action as well as in the making of national policies and international relations. He has also carried out an ethnography of the state, through a study of urban policing and the prison system. His recent work is on the theory of punishment, the politics of life, and the public presence of the social sciences, which he presented for the Tanner Lectures, the Adorno Lectures, and at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, respectively. Recipient of the Nomis Distinguished Scientist Award, he is currently involved in a global program on crises, examining in particular the cases of migrants and refugees. For his course at the Collège de France, he explores contemporary stakes in public health, with special reference to the coronavirus pandemic. He regularly contributes to newspapers such as Le Monde and magazines such as the London Review of Books. His recent books include Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present (2011), Enforcing Order: An Ethnography of Urban Policing (2013), At the Heart of the State: The Moral World of Institutions (2015), Prison Worlds: An Ethnography of the Carceral Condition (2016), The Will to Punish (2018), Life: A Critical User's Manual (2018), and Death of a Traveller. A Counter Investigation (in press).

Dates at IAS

School of Social Science


École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
Université Paris-Sud 11
Université Pierre et Marie Curie


Appointments: 2019–20 Annual Chair of Public Health, Collège de France; Institut Pasteur, Ethics Committee 2014; Collège de France, Scientific and Strategic Council 2010–; City of Paris, Scientific Council 2007–; Comité pour la Santé des Exilés, President 2006–
Awards: Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing 2019; Research Award of the French Red Cross 2019; Nomis Distinguished Scientist Award 2018; Gold Medal of the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography 2015; William A. Douglass Prize in Europeanist Anthropology 2010; Chevalier des Palmes Académiques 2007
Editorships: L'Homme 2016–; Medical Anthropology, Associate Editor 2010–; Humanity 2010–; Cultural Anthropology 2009–
Elections: Academia Europaea, 2021
Grants: Nomis Research Grant 2018; European Research Council, Program IDEAS 2009; Agence Nationale de la Recherche, France 2006
Honorary doctorate: Doctor honoris causa, University of Liège
Lectures: Inaugural Chair of Public Health Lecture, Collège de France 2020; Eric Wolf Lecture, University of Vienna 2019; Adorno Lectures, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main 2016; Tanner Lectures, University of California, Berkeley 2016; Roger Allan Moore Lecture, Harvard University 2012; Elizabeth Colson Lecture, Oxford University 2011


Collège de France
Annual Chair in Public Health
Princeton University
Visiting Professor
Institut de Recherche Interdisciplinaire sur les Enjeux Sociaux
Director and Founder 2007–2010, Member 2010
École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales
Director of Studies 1999–
Université Paris Nord
Professeur de Classe Exceptionnelle 2007–2009, Professor 1997–2007, Assistant Professor 1991–1997
Médecins Sans Frontières
Vice President 2001–2003, Administrator 1999–2001
French Institute for Research in the Andes
Senior Researcher
Hospital Pitié-Salpétrière
Assistant Professor
National Institute for Health Research
Junior Researcher