Anna Purkey
Anna Purkey
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Legal Studies, St. Jerome's University (Waterloo)
Gordon F. Henderson Post-Doctoral Fellow 2015-2016


Current Research Interests

  • Domestic and international refugee law and policy
  • Protracted refugee situations
  • Transitional justice
  • Legal empowerment and human rights-based approaches

Anna Purkey is the 2015-2016 Gordon F. Henderson Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Ottawa. In 2015 Anna successfully completed her Doctorate of Civil Law at McGill University. Her thesis, entitled Legal Empowerment for a Dignified Life: Fiduciary duty and human rights-based capabilities in protracted refugee situations combines a modified version of the capabilities approach with the fiduciary theory of state legal authority to develop a human rights-based capabilities approach that constitutes a partial theory of justice. This approach is used to demonstrate that the legal empowerment of refugee communities is both a central capability in itself, as a means of enabling refugees to claim their rights vis a vis powerful actors, and as insurance against instrumentalization and domination by the state.

Anna’s current research focuses on the role that refugee and other displaced communities can play in transitional justice processes and, in particular, on the importance of empowering individuals to access and to use the law to advance their rights and interests. In the coming year, Anna intends to survey refugee participation in recent transitional justice mechanisms. By applying the theoretical framework developed in her doctoral thesis, Anna will seek to understand the role that the effective participation of refugee communities in transitional justice can play in re-establishing a relationship of responsibility between the citizenry and the state, in rebuilding civic trust and in ensuring that the State meets its obligations in terms of securing valuable capabilities thereby fostering the conditions necessary for a lasting peace. In particular, Anna will apply this focus to the current process of peace negotiations taking place in Myanmar and to the refugee communities living along the Thai-Burmese border.

Anna has a B.C.L./LL.B from McGill University as well as an LL.M. from University of Toronto. Previously, she held the position of legal counsel at the Department of Justice Canada. She is involved with various civil society organizations including Action Réfugiés Montréal and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and has taught in a contract capacity in the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University. She is a member of the Quebec Bar Association.