Bordering, everyday racism and the 'hostile environment'

Event Information

Share this event

Date and Time



Birkbeck University of London



United Kingdom

View Map

Event description


Symposium: Bordering, everyday racism and the ‘hostile environment’

The Academy of Social Sciences Study Group on Refugees, Migration and Settlement

Wednesday February 21, 5-7pm

Birkbeck College, Clore Management Centre, 2 Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX


Les Back and Shamser Sinha, Goldsmiths University of London: The politics of waiting: Migration, dead time and freer life

Ben Gidley, Birkbeck University of London: Everyday racism and migration: Researching the material and affective impacts of xeno-racism

Ann Phoenix, Thomas Coram Research Unit UCL: Children, epistemic violence and migration

Nuria Targarona Rifa and Giorgia Dona, University of East London: The psychosocial impacts of the prohibition to work for asylum seekers in the UK

Chair: Floya Anthias, University of East London

To book seats:

Abstracts and biographical notes

Floya Anthias is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Roehampton, and a Visiting Professor at City University and the University of East London Her main academic writings have explored the intersections of social divisions and identities, different forms of stratification, and how inequalities and belongings interconnect. She has led a number of EU funded research projects on migration related areas including employment, gender, education and ‘integration’. Some of her recent work has been developing a translocational lens and the concept of translocational positionality as a way of addressing some of the difficulties identified with concepts of identity and intersectionality. Her books include Woman Nation State, Palgrave, Racialised Boundaries: nation, race, ethnicity, colour and class and the anti-racist struggle, Routledge, Ethnicity, Class, Gender and Migration, Greek Cypriots in Britain, Ashgate, Gender and Migration in Southern Europe, Berg, Into the Margins: Migration and Exclusion in Southern Europe, Ashgate,Rethinking Anti-racisms, Routledge, Paradoxes of Integration: Female Migrant in Europe, Springer, Contesting Integration, Engendering Migration, Palgrave, and Work and the Challenges of Belonging, Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Les Back and Shamser Sinha: The politics of waiting: Migration, dead time and freer life

This paper examines how understanding migration involves an appreciation of the experience of time in an unfolding life. The debate about belonging is so often coded around those who are seen to 'really belong' because they and their kin have put 'time into' society. Migrants by contrast are viewed as itinerant and passing through. Drawing on research conducted with thirty adult migrants in London over the past ten years we explore the politics of time in the context of the contemporary debate about migration. We argue that hierarchies of belonging are also accompanied by an ordering of the migrants’ relationship to time. We focus in particular on the experience of waiting as an existential straightjacket that restrains and comes to define life in the migrant city. Through the experiences of our participants we develop an analysis of the temporal-straight jackets or time traps that are produced within the immigration system. We show how participants in this study struggle to break free from these limitations through developing ‘vitalising strategies’ that help them move out of dead time and a future that is confined by a sense of their lives being ‘on hold’.

Les Back teaches sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His work attempts to create a sensuous or live sociology committed to searching for new modes of sociological writing and representation. This approach is outlined in his book The Art of Listening (Berg 2007). He also writes journalism and has made documentary films. He has juts completed a book about the experience of young adult migrants in London with Shamser Sinha called Migrant City (published by Routledge later this year). This book is attempts a sociable sociology that re-design social observation so that participants not only observe their own lives but also become credited authors too.

Shamser Sinha was previously employed at Goldsmiths College as a researcher on the EU Margins project studying the experiences of young migrants in Europe. He has also researched at the University of East London, London South Bank University, City University, Sheffield University and Manchester University. Previous teaching experience includes a range of courses in Sociology and Health and Social Care at the University of East London, London South Bank University and Manchester University. Other roles include Co-Convenor of the British Sociological Association Race and Ethnicity Study Group.

Ben Gidley: Everyday racism and migration: Researching the material and affective impacts of xeno-racism

This paper explores how social scientists can understand the relationship between public policies and discourses on migration, public attitudes towards migrants and minorities, and everyday experiences of exclusion and conviviality, using the concept of “xeno-racism”, as developed by the late Ambalavaner Sivanandan. The paper will draw on fieldwork in inner South London, and focus in particular on what we can learn from psychosocial and ethnographic approaches.

Ben Gidley is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. Previously, he worked at the ESRC Centre for Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford. His most recent book is Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared History? with James Renton.

Ann Phoenix: Children, epistemic violence and migration

This talk considers how child migrants are viewed in the European/’minority world’ imaginary and will discuss the theoretical relevance of epistemic violence to migration, particularly in relation to unaccompanied minors.

Ann Phoenix is professor of psychosocial studies at Thomas Coram Research Unit, Department of Social Sciences, UCL Institute of Education. From 2016-8 she is the Jane & Aatos Erkko Professor at the Helsinki University Collegium for Advanced Studies.

Nuria Targarona Rifa and Giorgia Dona The psychosocial impacts of the prohibition to work for asylum seekers in the UK

Increasingly restrictive asylum policies in the United Kingdom have multiple impacts on the lives of individuals in the asylum system. This presentation focuses on the psychosocial impacts of UK policies that deny asylum seekers the right to work, which pushes asylum seekers into enforced unemployment or undocumented work. This paper examines the psychosocial effects of forced joblessness and clandestine employment for asylum claimants, and also compares the diverse psychosocial outcomes of both experiences. Forced joblessness causes negative effects on asylum applicants’ wellbeing at all levels mentioned: poverty and financial dependence; social exclusion and poor levels of integration; sadness, frustration, and low self-esteem, among other emotional effects; anxiety, stress, and depression; fatigue and sleeping disorders; and difficulties to find employment once individuals are granted refugee status. On the other hand, undocumented employment is linked to mixed psychosocial impacts. Despite being normally linked to exploitative conditions, informal employment is connected to a combination of positive and negative psychosocial effects for asylum seekers. It brings overall positive impacts at an economic level due to an increase on applicants’ financial autonomy, and at a physical level thanks to a general improvement on health conditions. The findings are discussed in relation to asylum policies and psycho-social wellbeing.

Giorgia Donà is Professor of Forced Migration at the University of East London and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She has researched and published extensively in the area of conflict and forced migration, mainly from a psycho-social perspective. Edited publications include Child and Youth Migration: Mobility-in-Migration in an Era of Globalisation (2014, Palgrave Macmillan with Angela Veale), Research Methodologies in Forced Migration, Special Issue for the Journal of Refugee Studies (2007, with Eftihia Voutira); and Child and Youth Migration, Special Issue for the International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care (2006).

Nuria Targarona Rifa graduated in Political Sciences at Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona, Spain) and in Refugee Studies at the University of East London (UEL). She volunteers as an integration adviser at the Refugee Council providing advice to newly granted refugees on immigration, housing, welfare, and health. She taught English to asylum seekers and refugees as part of the UEL OLIve programme. She volunteered at the Immigration Detention Centre of Barcelona offering practical, emotional, and legal support to detainees. Her current research focuses on the psychosocial impacts of the denial of the right to work for asylum seekers in the UK.

Share with friends

Date and Time


Birkbeck University of London



United Kingdom

View Map

Save This Event

Event Saved