twitter: @robertbarsky; Academia website:

Barsky’s multidisciplinary research combines social justice, human rights, border and refugee studies with literary and artistic insights into the plight of vulnerable migrants. He has published widely, and his books on undocumented migrants, refugees and the milieus of Noam Chomsky and Zellig Harris have been translated into 14 languages. He has also been actively involved in several national and international research projects, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the governments of Canada, Québec, Belgium, France, and the Dutch Royal Academy.

In a novel approach to law and literature, Robert Barsky’s new book ‘Clamouring for Legal Protection’ (Bloomsbury/Hart Law) delves into the canon of so-called Great Books, and discovers that many beloved characters therein encounter obstacles similar to those faced by contemporary refugees and undocumented persons. The struggles of Odysseus, Moses, Aeneas, Dante, Satan, Dracula and Alice in Wonderland, among many others, provide surprising insights into current discussions about those who have left untenable situations in their home countries in search of legal protection.

Recently, and with support from his Canada Research Chair on Law, Narrative and Border Crossing, Barsky is building on the work has done for the past 15 years on a border-crossing journal called AmeriQuests: Narrative, Law and Society, which he started as the Canadian Bicentennial Visiting Professor at Yale. The new an open-access e-journal called Contours ( is hosted in collaboration with MIT’s Knowledge Futures Group, on MIT’s Media Lab platform. It focuses on artistic representations of border-crossing through a combined exhibition space and academic journal.

Overall, Barsky’s work employs humanistic insights to dispel false concordances that link terrorism, “anti-American” behavior and economic hardship with persons deemed “foreign”. Says Barsky: “Hardening rhetoric, militarizing borders and building walls is counter-productive to every sane domestic and international policy,” he says. “We need to combine judicial and policy work with cultural and humanistic efforts, so we can foster a deeper understanding of how central human movement is to a safe and peaceful world.”

Barsky is also committed to international education. For the past 15 years, he and his wife Marsha have combined their respective areas of research to create month-long “Maymester” courses in Switzerland, France and Italy. Their students learned about the art, literature and culture of the Alps, and meet with top officials from organizations including the International Red Cross, the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders, the World Food Program, and the International Organization for Migration.

Publications and Projects


Clamouring for Legal Protection: What the Great Books Teach Us About People Fleeing from Persecution

Undocumented Immigrants in an Era of Arbitrary Law: The Plight of People Deemed Illegal (Routledge Law, 2016).

Hatched: A Novel, Sunbury Press, 2016.

Zellig Harris: From American Linguistics to Socialist Zionism. Cambridge; London: The MIT Press, 2011.

The Chomsky Effect: A Radical Works Beyond the Ivory Tower, Cambridge; London: The MIT Press, 2007; paperback 2009

Table of Contents and sample chapters

Quests Beyond the Ivory Tower:  Public Intellectuals, Academia and the Media, Edited by Saleem H. Ali and Robert Barsky, a special issue of AmeriQuests, 2006.

Introduction by Saleem Ali and Robert Barsky

Quebec and Canada in the Americas, edited by Robert Barsky, as special issue of AmeriQuests, 2006.

Introduction by Barsky

Marc Angenot and the Scandal of History, a special issue of the Yale Journal of Criticism that features articles by Marc Angenot, Robert Barsky, Fredric Jameson, Marie-Christine Leps, Michel Pierssens, Darko Suvin. 2004.

Introduction to Marc Angenot and the Scandal of History

Workers Councils, by Anton Pannekoek. A new and revised edition, edited and with comments by Robert Barsky, interviews with Noam Chomsky, Ken Coates and Peter Hitchcock, and a republication of a seminal piece by Paul Mattick. London/SF: AK Press, 2002.

Introduction to Workers Councils including a discussion between Chomsky and Barsky

Arguing and Justifying: Assessing the Convention Refugee Choice of Moment, Motive and Host Country. Aldershot; Burlington; Sydney; Singapore: Ashgate, 2001.

Paris-SubStance-America, edited by Robert Barsky. A special issue of SubStance devoted to French theory. 2001.

Introduction à la théorie littéraire. Quebec: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 1997.

Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent. Cambridge; London: MIT Press, 1997, 1998. Translations and revised editions:

Constructing a Productive Other: Discourse Theory and the Convention Refugee Hearing, Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1994.

Bakhtin and Otherness. A special issue of Discours social/Social Discourse edited by Robert Barsky and Michael Holquist, 1991.

Introduction to Bakhtin and Otherness

Translation: Philosophy and the Passions: Toward a History of Human Nature, Penn State Press, 2000, Robert Barsky’s translation and introduction of Michel Meyer’s Le Philosophe et les passions (Paris: Livres de poche).

Introduction to Philosophy and the Passions

Research Areas and Selected Publications

1.  Literary and Language Theory; translation; Literature and Law