Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment

Social Scientists Against The Hostile Environment (SSAHE) is a project of the Special Interest Group (SIG) on Refugees, Migration and Settlement established by some Fellows of the Academy of Social Sciences (AcSS). We work as social scientists on issues of racism and migration in the UK and globally. We also believe in our duty as social scientists to use our research to inform political debates and to challenge the ‘Hostile Environment’ for migrants produced by current government policy.

Read our new report here. Find out about our upcoming event here. Read about our past events here


Refugees, Migration, Racism and the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees, June 2019

Academy of Social Sciences Migration, Racism and Settlement Working Group
Annual Public Meeting: Refugees, Migration, Racism and the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees
June 13, 2019: 18.00-20.30
UCL Institute of Education Main Building
20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL, Room 642
Speakers:  Alice Bloch, Myriam Cherti and Giorgia Donà
Chair: Ann Phoenix
Announcing and introducing the Group Report on Migration, Racism and the ‘Hostile Environment’ Nira Yuval-Davis


Biographies of speakers
Alice Bloch is Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester. She has carried out research focussing on the experiences of refugees, undocumented migrants and second-generation people from refugee backgrounds. She is currently writing a book to be published by Bristol University Press, Second Generation from Refugee Backgrounds: Identity and belonging. Her research has been funded bythe Economic and Social Research Council, Department for Work and Pensions and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation amongst others. Recent authored books include: Living on the Margins: Undocumented migrants in a global city, 2016, Bristol: Policy Press (with Sonia McKay) and Sans Papiers: The social and economic lives of young undocumented migrants in the UK, London: Pluto, 2014 (with Nando Sigona and Roger Zetter). Her most recent book, co-edited with Giorgia Donà, and published by Routledge in 2019 is Forced Migration: Current Issues and Debates.
Dr Myriam Cherti is a National Officer at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in London and works on migration and development, diaspora engagement and integration. She was previously based in IOM Morocco where she was working directly with the Moroccan government advising them on the Global Forum of Migration and Development as well as the Global Compact for Migration.  Prior to that, she was a Senior Researcher at Oxford University’s COMPAS. Her areas of expertise include irregular migration, migrant integration and diaspora politics. Prior to COMPAS, she was a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IPPR) where she led several projects, including “Beyond Irregularity” – a major research program on irregular migration. Before that, she was project coordinator at the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum, where she led a project on the oral history of the Moroccan diaspora in the UK. Myriam has also worked as a consultant and independent researcher on several European projects on the integration of ethnic minorities. She has also taught at the University of Sussex. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences and a PhD in Migration Studies from the University of Sussex.
Professor Giorgia Donà is co-director of the Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London. She has researched and published extensively in the area of conflict and forced migration. Publications include The Marginalised in Genocide Narratives(forthcoming, 2019), Forced Migration: Current Issues and Debates (ed. 2019, with Alice Bloch)and Child and Youth Migration: Mobility-in-Migration in an Era of Globalisation (ed. 2014, with Angela Veale).
Nira Yuval-Davis is Professor Emeritus, Honorary Director of the Research Centre on Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London and a Professorial Associated Researcher at the Centre for Gender Studies at SOAS, University of London. The winner of the 2018 International Sociological Association Distinguished Award for Excellence in Research and Practice. New book Bordering (Polity Press 2019 with G. Wemyss & K. Cassidy).


Bordering, everyday racism and the ‘hostile environment’, February 2018

21 February 2018 at 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Symposium: Bordering, everyday racism and the ‘hostile environment’ – The Academy of Social Sciences Study Group on Refugees, Migration and Settlement

Birkbeck College, Malet St, Bloomsbury, 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

Chair: Floya Anthias, University of East London

To book seats:

Listen to the audio and view the slides here.

Abstracts and biographical notes

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.

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.

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.My main academic writings have explored the intersections of social divisions and identities, different forms of stratification, and how inequalities and belongings interconnect. I have led a number of EU funded research projects on migration related areas including employment, gender, education and ‘integration’. Some of my 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. My 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.