College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Academics > Political Science > Faculty > Kathleen Arnold

Kathleen (Katy) Arnold


Kathleen Arnold is Director of the Refugee and Forced Migration graduate program and teaches courses on international conflict negotiation and the public health of forced migration. She also teaches courses on political theory (specializing in contemporary theory), immigration law, human rights, and political development and political economy in the Department of Political Science. She is committed to teaching from an intersectional perspective, including assigning texts that are critical of the philosophical canon, and centrist and/or “realist” approaches to international organizations. She often works with students on justice-oriented projects and is engaged in grassroots activity in the Chicago area, as well as serving as an expert witness in asylum cases.
Professor Arnold is the author of five books, two encyclopedia projects, and several articles and essays. Her work centers on issues of political sovereignty and critical analyses of public policy, but the main focus of her work could be summed up in the word statelessness. She is interested in the democratic and justice-oriented questions that arise from the condition of statelessness which, following Hannah Arendt, Arnold finds to be endemic to the modern condition (rather than anomalous). More specifically, she has examined American and European poverty, homeless policy, immigration, economic globalization, democracy, citizenship, and identity in her research and teaching. This work is interdisciplinary, both in terms of her theoretical sources (e.g. relying on literary theory, feminist theory, critical race theory, post-colonial theory, and more recently legal theory) and her approach, which often defies disciplinary boundaries (including within political science), is historically inflected.

Professor Arnold's latest book, Arendt, Agamben, and the Issue of Hyper-Legality: In Between the Prisoner-Stateless Nexus​, was published in 2018. This work is both theoretical and an exploration of the “crimmigration” syst​em, which is the merging of the criminal justice system and immigration/refugee policy since the 1990s. She was inspired to write this book based on Hannah Arendt’s famous claim that it is better to be a criminal than a stateless person.  In her famous work on totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt has argued that it was better to be a criminal than a stateless person during the interwar and World War II era. This was because the criminal, even though treated as an exception, still had a range of rights and was treated as a “person” before the law. In contrast, the stateless person was essentially a non-person and yet criminalized in such a way that s/he became an “outlaw.” Like Arendt, Giorgio Agamben argues that the camp and not the prison is the key institution of modern power in wealthier representative democracies. While the prison is built on legality, the camp is a geographical space that denationalizes national territory and suspends regular law. This book interrogates the hierarchical binaries suggested by each author (criminal-stateless and prison-camp), suggesting that both authors’ works are relevant to the contemporary United States, but that the personhood of the Fourteenth Amendment suggests a different sort of relationship between the pairs suggested by these authors. Her research for this project has also been inspired by the very rich resources for immigration advocacy and policy in Chicago.
She is currently working on projects related to faith-based sanctuary, detainee protest (hunger strikes, lip-sewing), and theories of sovereignty.