Robert F Barsky Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Robert F Barsky

Vanderbilt University

Robert F. Barsky is a Professor at Vanderbilt University, in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Law. He has published widely in language theory, Convention refugee adjudication, and border studies, and he is the author of a trilogy of books about the milieus of Noam Chomsky and Zellig Harris for MIT Press. He is the founding editor of AmeriQuests (www.ameriquests) and Discours social, and the Director of the W. T. Bandy Center. His new novel is called Hatched.


Robert Franklin Barsky is a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Law School of Vanderbilt Universityt. He is an expert on Noam Chomsky, literary theory, convention refugees, immigration and refugee law, borders, work through the Americas, and Montreal. His biography of Chomsky titled Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent was published in 1997 by MIT Press, followed in 2007 by The Chomsky Effect: A Radical Works Beyond the Ivory Tower, and then in 2011 by Zellig Harris: From American Linguistics to Socialist Zionism, all published by MIT Press. He has two books forthcoming: Undocumented Immigrants in an Era of Arbitrary Law (Routledge Law, 2015) and Hatched!, a novel.

Barsky was born and raised in Montreal. He attended Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and after graduating moved to Verbier, Switzerland with the intention of pursuing a career in skiing. In 1985, he returned to Canada to undertake graduate work at McGill University in Montreal, first on Lord Byron and then, following-up on his work as a transcriber of refugee hearings, on the discourse of Convention Refugees for a PhD in Comparative Literature. After the PhD he continued work for the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), before taking up a post-doc with Michel Meyer on rhetoric and argumentation at l'Université libre de Bruxelles, in Belgium.

Barsky has been the Canadian Bicentennial Visiting Professor at at Yale, a Visiting Professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Toulouse, and a Visiting Professor at the Law School of the VU Amsterdam, under the auspices of the Dutch Royal Society. In the summer of 2015, he will teach at the Jiatong University in Chengdu, China. He is also the Faculty Director of the W.T. Bandy Center, the Founding Director of Quebec and Canadian Studies, the Director of Literature and Law at the Robert Penn Warren Center, and the Faculty Head of House for West House, Vanderbilt University.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Literature, Law, Migration studies

Personal Interests

    Tennis, skiing, gardening, farming.



Featured Title
 Featured Title - Undocumented Immigrants in an Era of Arbitrary Law - 1st Edition book cover



What the Legal Setbacks on Obama’s Immigration Plans Say About..

Published: Nov 13, 2015 by Fortune
Authors: Robert F. Barsky

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration aimed at easing deportation threats for millions of undocumented immigrants suffered another setback. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, ruled 2 to 1 against an appeal by the Obama administration that would have changed the immigration classification of millions of undocumented immigrants on a class-wide basis.


Article and interview with Robert Barsky concerning the Syrian refugee crisis

By: Robert F Barsky
Subjects: Area Studies

The current crisis has tested the limits of the European political will - REFUGEE CRISIS + INTERVIEW

More than 4.5 million refugees from Syria are in just five countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.

More than 4.5 million refugees from Syria are in just five countries We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.

An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

In a world where nearly 34,000 people are forcibly displaced every day as a result of conflict or persecution.


"The current crisis has tested the limits of the European political will, and has led to wild variations in the treatment of refugees"

More than 4.5 million refugees from Syria are in just five countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt:

  • Turkey hosts 2.5 million refugees from Syria, more than any other country worldwide
  • Lebanon hosts approximately 1.1 million refugees from Syria which amounts to around one in five people in the country
  • Jordan hosts approximately 635,324 refugees from Syria, which amounts to about 10% of the population
  • Iraq where 3.9 million people are already internally displaced hosts 245,022 refugees from Syria
  • Egypt hosts 117,658 refugees from Syria


The UN’s 2015 humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees was just 61% funded by the end of the year.

Funding shortages mean that the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon receive just $21.60 per person month or around US$0.70 cent a day for food assistance, well below the UN’s poverty line of US$1.90

86% of Syrian refugees in urban areas in Jordan are living below the local poverty line.


According to the UN around 250,000 people have been killed and 13.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria

More than 50% of Syria’s population is currently displaced

One-in-every-two of those crossing the Mediterranean this year – half a million people – were Syrians escaping the conflict in their country

International Resettlement

In total, 162,151 resettlement places have been offered globally since the start of the Syria crisis, which equates to a mere 3.6% of the total population of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey.

At least 450,000 people in the five main host countries - or 10% - are in need of resettlement according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

Amnesty International is calling for at least 10% of Syria’s most vulnerable refugees to be offered resettlement or other forms of admission by the end of 2016


Key facts:

  • Gulf countries including Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.
  • Other high income countries including Russia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea have also offered zero resettlement places.
  • Germany has pledged 39,987 places for Syrian refugees through its humanitarian admission programme and individual sponsorship; about 54% of the EU total.
  • Germany and Serbia together have received 57% Syrian asylum applications in Europe between April 2011 and July 2015
  • Excluding Germany and Sweden, the remaining 26 EU countries have pledged around 30,903 resettlement places, or around 0.7% of the Syrian refugee population in the main host countries.

To discuss this topic and find out more, Admiral.News addressed a few questions to Robert F. Barsky who is a Professor of both literature and Law at Vanderbilt University, and a long-time researcher in the area of refugee studies, migration and, most recently, undocumented immigrants. 


1.The topic of refugees has been extremely keen especially because of civil war in Syria, situation in Afghanistan and Somali.  

So what is unique about refugees all around the world?

Refugees are people who are displaced, generally by upheaval in their country resulting from military activities, but also persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political affiliation. There are also many people who leave their country because they cannot make a living, which can be the result of many factors, including climate change, depletion of natural resources, or government policies that have negative bearing upon them.


2.How are refugees protected under international law?

In the wake of World War II, the international community gathered together in Geneva, and founded the United Nations (1948) and then the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which created the “Geneva Convention” of 1951. Originally designed to address the post-war refugee crisis in Europe, it was modified by the 1968 Protocol to allow people to claim refugee status on the basis of persecution in the host country. This Convention and Protocol serves as the principle apparatus in international law to address refugee crises, although there are now more instruments to bring the process up to date with current events, including efforts to help Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs), those who are in need of assistance but have not crossed an international border.


3. how does Europe try to solve refugee problem?

Europe is mandated by the adherence to the Convention and the Protocol to admit all refugee claimants, and to determine the validity of their claims. As such, this is not charity, it is law, and people who are in need of international protection have a firmly-ensconsed right to assistance. The current crisis has tested the limits of the European political will, and has led to wild variations in the treatment of refugees, from Hungary that has ostensibly closed its borders to refugees, to Germany, that originally accepted entrance of all claimants. The current impasse remains, though, and the European Union is struggling to come up with a unified policy, particularly in light of local resistance (leading, for example, to Brexit), and to the complexities of being front-line states (most notably Greece).

The European Union is struggling to come up with a unified policy

4. What is the impact of the USA in this matter?

The USA contributes considerable funding to all international organizations, notably the UN and UNHCR, and they also select large numbers of refugees from refugee camps. Nonetheless, much more needs to be done, as the numbers of people that have been admitted from the current waves is very small in the US relative to the international requirements that flow from the numbers (roughly 2 million).

5. Why is the crisis hitting Europe now?

The lingering Syrian crisis, with no end in sight, the constant tensions in certain areas of the Middle East, the crisis in South Sudan, and the heavy weight caused by the US invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq have all contributed to the crisis. The latter two crises lay particular burdens on the US, given the massive invasions and the destruction that has come in their wake.


Author: Orkhan Khalilov


Fortune publishes article by Robert F. Barsky

By: Robert F Barsky

Robert F. Barksy recently published an article in Fortune entitled "What the Legal Setbacks on Obama’s Immigration Plans Say About the Grey Areas of U.S. Border Patrol". Visit the website or his author profile to read more.


Photograph by Kevin Lamarque — Reuters

Open Borders Not Giant Wall

By: Robert F Barsky

Vanderbilt University produces a video of author Robert Barsky discussing some of the issues that his new book, Undocumented Immigrants in an Era of Arbitrary Law, explores.


To read the article and see the entire video, please visit the page on Newswise.


WMOT report on Robert Barsky's 'Undocumented Immigrants' book, for NPR radio

By: Robert F Barsky

On September 10th, WMOT published an article entitled, "Should the U.S. accept more Syrian refugees? Vandy professor responds".

In this article, author Robert Barsky says the U.S. does more than most nations to help refugees around the world, but also says America can and should do more. Click the link above to read more.

LatinaLista and Futurity publish article on Barsky's new book

By: Robert F Barsky

Venture Nashville on Robert Barsky's work on Undocumented Immigrants

By: Robert F Barsky

On November 1st, author Robert F. Barsky published an article Venture Nashville entitled, "Crises in Migration, Europe and the Americas". It begins:

"The crises of refugees in or in transit to Europe, and undocumented immigrants in the United States, are huge international news stories, but most news coverage has left out crucial details that could help sway public opinion and move those in power to alleviate suffering. What is missing in the current discussion about these "crises" is acknowledgement of the fact that admitting and settling refugees isn't a matter of ad hoc charity or benevolence -- it is compliance with international law."


If you'd like to continue reading this article, please click on the link above.


"From Romantic Poetry to the Writings of the Beat Generation” Robert Barsky, 3.1

Published: Oct 09, 2015

Robert Barsky discusses the work of Zellig Harris

Published: Oct 09, 2015

Robert Barsky in Fort Collins, Colorado

Published: Oct 09, 2015

Robert Barsky discusses Noam Chomsky, and Immigration issues

Robert Barsky on "Noam Chomsky, Dissent, and Immigrant Rights."

Published: Oct 09, 2015

Robert Barsky "The Case for Open Borders"

Published: Oct 09, 2015

Published on Mar 11, 2014 Robert Barsky is a professor at Vanderbilt University, Nashville TN. The complete title for this speech is "Addressing the Plight of Undocumented Immigrants in the US: The Case for Open Borders" Hosted by First Unitarian Church of Denver Sunday, March 9, 2014 For more information on the author go to: