Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 243–261 | Cite as

The Politics of “Doing Exactly Nothing”: Feminist Legal Change and Bureaucratic Administration of Refugee Protection

  • Azar MasoumiEmail author


This article explore the limitations of progressive and feminist legal change through a study of the development of gender-based refugee policy in Canada. I argue that the actual impact of feminist and progressive legal change is determined in interaction with the wider bureaucratic and administrative contexts of its implementation; administrative strategies and bureaucratic procedures may, in fact, capably undermine the potentially expansive effects of progressive jurisprudence. As I will show, feminist legal interventions in Canada’s refugee policy did not increase actual access to refugee protection. Not only were these interventions delivered in a decidedly limited administrative form, they occurred simultaneously with highly innovative and coordinated bureaucratic practices that limited the access of large groups of refugee claimants to protection. Thus, while the Canadian refugee system expanded jurisprudentially, access to this system was tightly restricted through administrative and bureaucratic measures.


Bureaucracy Feminist jurisprudence Gender-based refugee protection Refugee policy Canada 



This research was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada Graduate Scholarship as well as an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of this article for their thoughtful feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyAcadia UniversityWolfvilleCanada

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