What's Political about Political Refugeehood? A Normative Reappraisal

Felix Bender*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


What is political about political refugeehood? Theorists have assumed that refugees are special because their specific predicament as those who are persecuted sets them aside from other “necessitous strangers.” Persecution is a special form of wrongful harm that marks the repudiation of a person's political membership and that cannot—contrary to certain other harms—be remedied where they are. It makes asylum necessary as a specific remedial institution. In this article, I argue that this is correct. Yet, the connection between political membership, its repudiation, and persecution is far from clear. Drawing on normative political thought and research on autocracies, repression, and migration studies, I show that it is political oppression that marks the repudiation of political membership and leads to various forms of repression that can equally not be remedied at home. A truly political account moves away from persecution and endorses political oppression as the normative pillar of refugeehood and asylum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-375
Number of pages23
JournalEthics & International Affairs
Issue number3
Early online date23 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


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