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Upcoming Events

Online Lecture Series for 2023-24: Resisting the Hostile Environment

The Language, Literature and Politics Research Group will host eleven one-hour online talks on ‘Resisting the Hostile Environment’. The context for this lecture series was created in May 2012, when Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, declared in an interview: ‘The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration .... What we don’t want is a situation where people think that they can come here and overstay because they're able to access everything they need’. From different disciplinary perspectives, the speakers in this series address how the state’s efforts to foster a hostile environment for asylum-seekers and refugees in Britain has been enforced, managed, negotiated, and resisted.

Nov 09

Creating ‘illegal’ immigrants: the Rwanda plan

Thursday 9 November 2023, 16:00 - 17:00

Speakers: Daniel Triling

Over the past few decades, British governments have repeatedly promised to crack down on forms of immigration they deem unwanted. The proposed measures have varied in scope and target but they frequently involve creating new ways in which the state can class people as ‘illegal’. Why does this keep happening? Daniel Trilling, a journalist who specialises in immigration and asylum, will consider what the latest episode in this story - the government's plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda - tells us about the underlying trends.

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Nov 23

The Migrant Archive: Chronicling Religious and Spiritual Experiences during The Pandemic 2020-23

Thursday 23 November 2023, 16:00 - 17:00

Speakers: Marie Gillespie (The Open University)

This presentation focusses on Covid Chronicles from the Margins – a digital, participatory, community-based archive project the main purpose of which was to provide a platform for marginalised migrant to document their experiences of the pandemic using the creative affordances of smartphones. The archive was co-produced by asylum and refugees with community organisations, academics and artists. It was launched during the first lockdown in the UK in March 2020 and ran for three years until June 2023.

Covid Chronicles is analysed as a ‘migrant archive’ focussing on what it tells us about the value and meanings of religious and spiritual practices during the pandemic for migrants whose voices are often not heard in public life. Like other vulnerable groups, asylum-seekers and undocumented groups suffered disproportionately from the impact of Covid and pandemic restrictions as well as from the long-term impact of the UK’s hostile environment for migrant policies. The archive provided a socially engaged means of collectively documenting to worsening inequalities. At the same time, it bears witness to the strengthening of existing solidarities and the creation of new kinds of connectivity at a time of existential crisis. The presentation explains how it evolved from a highly localised to a transnational project, how it generated transversal dialogues among contributors, and provided a means of challenging the hostile environments experienced by many migrants across the world through artful and creative forms of resistance that nurtured a politics of hope.

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Dec 7

Unsettling Resettlement: The Representation of Refugee Homemaking in Remi Weekes’ horror film His House (2020)

Thursday 7 December 2023, 16:00 - 17:00

Speakers: Alisha Mathers (University of Southampton)

In Avery F. Gordon’s theory, haunting is a manifestation of ‘something-to-be-done’ in the form of social and political change. This paper considers how Remi Weekes’ 2020 horror film, His House, shows how to resolve the disconnection between haunting and the desired change. I argue that His House is a haunting; its gaze directs the demands of the refugees—both dead and alive—towards us, attempting to break the state of ‘traumatic paralysis’ that the haunting produces. The domestic setting of the film and its hauntings show us what must ‘be-done’ regarding refugee resettlement in the UK.

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Jan 18

The Rwanda Case: Resistance and Counter-Resistance

Thursday 18 January 2024, 16:00 - 17:00

Speakers: Kate Ritchie (The Open University)

The Rwanda plan forms a core part of the UK Government’s policy to outsource asylum claims. The plan is to remove those who arrive in the UK illegally to a safe third country, namely Rwanda. Resistance to this policy is demonstrated in a case proceeding through the domestic courts. The Court of Appeal reversed the High Court decision, and ruled that Rwanda is not safe, but the Supreme Court will have the final word. In a context of resistance and counter-resistance by politicians, lawyers, academics and the media, the implications of this case will be considered.

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Feb 08

Everyday borders, ACAB everyday

Thursday 8 February 2024, 16:00 - 17:00

Speakers: Leah Cowan (author of Border Nation. A Story of Migration)

Thinking through the connections between empire, race, borders and criminalisation, this short talk will explore the racial capitalist basis for the border regime and its everyday expressions of violence.

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Feb 15

The hostile environment as Greek tragedy.

Thursday 15 February 2024, 16:00 - 17:00

Speakers: Kamila Shamsie (University of Manchester)

Talk and reading from Home Fire

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Mar 14

NHS Apartheid: Resisting migrant passport checks and healthcare charges within the NHS

Thursday 14 March 2024, 16:00 - 17:00

Speakers: Kathryn Medien (The Open University)

This talk explores the introduction of passport checks and charges within the NHS, and considers how they have been conceptualised and resisted by healthcare workers and migrant organisations in Britain. While commonly thought to have been introduced through Theresa May’s hostile environment policies, charges for migrant healthcare were first introduced in 1982 in the wake of the Nationality Act (1981). Drawing on archival research and contemporary fieldwork examining the hostile environment, this talk recovers this earlier policy and explores how activists framed their resistance in ways that drew out the connections between internal bordering and the ongoing legacies of British colonialism and empire. Such a framing illuminates the intimacies between bordering policies in Britain and those elsewhere, allowing us to create solidarity between anti-border and anti-racist struggles globally.

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Apr 25

Hostile Archives, Resistant Documentality: Rethinking the Windrush Scandal

Thursday 25 April 2024, 16:00 - 17:00

Speakers: Henghameh Saroukhani

This talk extends Maurizio Ferraris’s notion of documentality (2007; 2010) using a curated collection of documents from the archival material surrounding the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush in 1948. The government memos and telegrams that constitute the Windrush archives evidence an insidiously mundane record of imperial domination in relation to postwar colonial migrants, a record that testifies to a much longer history of the so-called ‘hostile environment’ that has shaped the recent Windrush scandal. These documents expose the bureaucratic machinations of empire and offer a counter-intuitively resistant body of ‘paperwork’ that revitalises Ferraris’s ontological conceptualisation of documentality.

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May 2

Perceptions of control and criminalisation from maritime search and rescue workers in Europe

Thursday 2 May 2024

Speakers: Neil Graffin (The Open University)

This presentation, which is based on qualitative research of 22 search and rescue (SAR) volunteers who save migrant lives at sea, examines the perceptions of these workers of measures used, in their view, to control them and their organisations. The analysis reflects on how SAR workers perceive that they are subjected to a panoply of methods of control by states, examining, but also looking beyond the issue of how some SAR volunteers are criminalised, where much of the literature has focused on to date. It argues that the reason these forms of control are used is – in the view of participants - us to deter, disrupt, delegitimise, and de-operationalise SAR work.

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Jun 20

Resisting hostility: the strive to becoming a sanctuary university

Thursday 20 June 2024, 16:00 - 17:00

Speakers: Koula Charitonos (The Open University)

Quality higher education (HE) is not easily accessible by the forcibly displaced. The numbers are alarming: in 2023, the number of displaced people worldwide had risen to 108 million - the highest ever recorded. For tens of millions of people, their education journeys are disrupted and only 6% of refugees participate in HE (UNHCR, 2021). Universities can be agents for change in this humanitarian crisis – from providing scholarships and opportunities to access and participate in HE for students from a refugee background to advocating for refugee’s human rights. In this seminar, Dr Koula Charitonos will talk about the role of universities in responding to this humanitarian crisis by drawing on the notion of the ‘good university’ (Connell, 2019). She will provide empirical evidence from a study conducted at the Open University with a group of students from refugee backgrounds to reflect on insights generated in navigating studies, relations, institutional systems, policies and practices and importantly, to highlight the university’s journey to becoming a sanctuary university.

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Past Events

Seminar Series on ‘Freedom and Liberty’

Book Launch: Political Catchphrases and Contemporary History

Seminar Series on ‘Keywords’

Seminar Series on ‘The Critical Citizen’