ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The shifting face of ‘legal’ violence: the lived experience of nonreligious Bangladeshi asylum seekers in Sweden


Laws Ben - University of Cambridge, Social Anthropology, Cambridge, United Kingdom


04- Pathways from Injury: Legal Narratives of Prejudice and the Politics of Hate in South Asia


 Attacks on secular humanists are on the rise in South Asia. As a corollary, more South Asians seek asylum on grounds of nonreligion. A small number of nonreligious cases have been examined for their legal reasoning (Nixon, 2020), but little has been said about the lived legal experiences of secular asylum seekers themselves. Given the relative novelty of nonreligious asylum claims within legal anthropology, a pressing question this paper seeks to answer is how Northern European legal systems come to accommodate or relegate them? Drawing on cases of Bangladeshi men and women in particular, I attempt to explore identity-based violence and inequality in the context of asylum in Sweden. While escaping acute forms of state sanctioned physical violence in Bangladesh this unpacks layers of bureaucratic violence my participants faced upon their arrival to Europe. I try to explore the various meaning of ‘legal violence’ and engage with the idea that the ‘legal life of hate’ extends well beyond the boarders of one’s home country.