Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to deliver Hesburgh Lecture

Author: Joan Fallon

Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel laureate in economics, will deliver the 18th annual Hesburgh Lecture in Ethics and Public Policy April 17 (Tuesday) at 5:30 p.m. in the Leighton Concert Hall of the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Sen is best known for his commitment to addressing the challenges facing the world’s poorest people.

“Professor Sen has spent a lifetime fighting poverty through research, analysis, and advocacy of human development informed by what the Nobel committee called ‘the ethical dimension,’” said Scott Appleby, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

The Kroc Institute established the Hesburgh lectures in 1995 in honor of the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., president emeritus of Notre Dame and a global champion of peace and justice.

“Of special interest to Notre Dame is Sen’s vision of how poverty, violence, corruption, denial of human rights, and ethnic, religious and gender discrimination reinforce one another,” Appleby said. “His pragmatic, culturally nuanced, ‘from the ground up’ approach resonates with Catholic Social Teaching and with the Kroc Institute’s emphasis on peacebuilding that begins with local communities and strategically builds national and transnational partnerships for peace.”

One of Sen’s best known works, “Development as Freedom,” (1999) argues that people cannot lift themselves out of poverty unless they have political freedom, civil rights, economic opportunities, access to health care and education and “protective security,” including unemployment benefits, famine relief and emergency aid. In a highly influential essay published in 1990 in The New York Review of Books and expanded upon in his subsequent academic work, Sen estimated that more than 100 million Asian women were “missing” — eliminated through sex-selective abortion, infanticide or inadequate nutrition during infancy.

In recent years, Sen has turned his attention to questions of justice and peace and their relationship to his approach to development. His 2006 book “Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny” explores the complex interaction of plural identities and inter-group violence. In 2009, he published “The Idea of Justice,” where he develops a theory of justice that seeks to be relevant to practical concerns.

Sen is the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University, a Distinguished Fellow of All Souls College, and a trustee of Economists for Peace and Security. In 2010, Time magazine listed Sen as one of the “100 most influential persons in the world,” and the New Statesman listed him as one of the “World’s 50 Most Influential People Who Matter.” He holds more than 90 honorary degrees from universities around the world, and his books have been translated into more than 30 languages.

Sen has a childhood connection to the Congregation of Holy Cross (the same Catholic religious order that founded Notre Dame). As a native of Bangladesh, he received part of his education at St. Gregory’s High School, a Holy Cross school in Dhaka.

Also on April 17, Sen will receive the Notre Dame Award for International Human Development and Solidarity, bestowed by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies’ Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity.

The Hesburgh lecture is free and open to the public. Tickets are required and will be available from the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center beginning March 1.

Past Hesburgh Lecturers have included:

• Francis Deng (2011), special advisor to the U.N. Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities
• Martha Minow (2010), The Dean and Jeremiah Smith Jr. Professor, Harvard Law School
• Shirin Ebadi (2009), 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, lawyer and human rights advocate in Iran
• Rev. Bryan Hehir (2008), Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government
• Shashi Tharoor (2007), author and former under-secretary-general, United Nations
• Mary Kaldor (2006), professor of global governance and director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance, London School of Economics
• Congressman Lee Hamilton (2005), former vice-chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks and former chairman/ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
• Kenneth Roth (2004), executive director, Human Rights Watch
• Michael Walzer (2003), professor emeritus, School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
• Freeman Dyson (2002), professor emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
• Anthony Lake (2001), Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy, Georgetown University, and former assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
• Saskia Sassen (2000), professor of sociology and the Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University
• Martha Nussbaum (1999), Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago Law School
• Michael Ignatieff (1998), member of Canadian Parliament and former director of the Carr Centre for Human Rights and Policy, Harvard University
• Richard Falk (1997), Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University
• Jean Bethke Elshtain (1996), Laura Spellman Rockefeller Professor of Social Political Ethics, University of Chicago Divinity School
• Stanley Hoffmann (1995), Paul and Catherine Buttenwieser University Professor, Harvard University

Originally published by Joan Fallon at on January 23, 2012.