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The Graduate Migration Research Seminar Series

These seminars aim to offer graduate students currently engaged with migration research an opportunity to present their work, get feedback, and meet other graduate colleagues working on similar issues. We welcome and encourage presentations from all related fields and disciplines. We will also be updating this space quite frequently, so please do follow us to see the latest seminars being announced!


Graduate Migration Research
Seminar Series, Michaelmas 2021

We are inviting researchers from all disciplines and backgrounds, at any stage of research, to present work on all areas of migration! See bellow our past seminars and sign-up section!

Call for presenters.

We are looking for graduate students interested in presenting their migration-related research for Michaelmas Term 2021.

The structure of the virtual seminars is a 25 minute presentation, followed by 15 minutes of response by a knowledgeable discussant (typically a professor or lecturer in your field), and finally 20 minutes of Q&A. 

Thanks for your interest in presenting! We'll get back to your shortly.

Queer asylum in Berlin: The dissonance between the lived realities of queer refugees and intelligibility of 'fear' and 'persecution' 

Kennith Rosario, MPhil candidate in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies, University of Cambridge

Discussant: Professor Richard Mole, Professor of Political Sociology, UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies

15 June | 12pm (BST)

State Office for Refugee Affairs Berlin (Landesamt für Flüchtlingsangelegenheiten). The photo was taken by Kennith Rosario on 23rd July, 2019

State Office for Refugee Affairs Berlin (Landesamt für Flüchtlingsangelegenheiten). The photo was taken by Kennith Rosario on 23rd July, 2019

Abstract: The relationship between persecution and queer refugees’ sexual and gender identities distinguishes them from other refugees coming to Berlin, which is the first federal state in Germany to count queer refugees under ‘particularly vulnerable group’ who have a ‘special need for protection’. LGBTI refugees have been granted asylum since the signing of the Refugee Convention in 1951 but it is only recently that they have been granted asylum because of their non-normative sexual and gender identity. My research centres the lived realities of queer refugees who sought asylum in Berlin for a complex variety of reasons, many of which were left undocumented during the asylum procedure. The construction of life narratives is at the centre of a queer refugee’s asylum application. The stories they choose to reveal and the timelines they construct often determine the outcome of their application. Through a series of life story interviews with six queer refugees – two gay men, two transwomen, one lesbian woman and one trans/agender person – from five different countries across three continents, I analyse the legibility of ‘persecution’, ‘threat’ and ‘well-founded fear’ that is embedded in the 1951 Refugee Convention. How does the legibility of ‘persecution’, as it relates to sexual and gender identity, account for the lived experiences of queer refugees in Berlin? How are these lived experiences related to a temporal understanding of ‘persecution’, ‘discrimination’ and ‘fear’? What ‘intersectional fears’ are rendered invisible in the asylum process? I argue that the legibility of ‘persecution’ is contingent on a narrow temporal understanding of ‘fear’, disregarding systemic discriminations, intersectional threats and the unique ways in which queer refugees experience ‘harm’ by state and non-state actors.

Past seminars

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‘The abstract nakedness of being human’: 
the concept of statelessness and the figure of the refugee in the modern nation-state

Caroline Breeden, ESRC DTP PhD Candidate, Faculty of Education (@_CBreeden on Twitter)

9 June 2021



With around 80 million forcibly displaced people worldwide by the end of 2019, 26 million of whom categorised as refugees, and millions estimated to be stateless globally, we are currently witnessing the highest numbers of forced movement since World War Two (UNHCR, 2021). From an Arendtian perspective, the appearance of statelessness and the inability of nations to protect those outside of their sovereign space demonstrates that the loss of national rights, that is, belonging to a collective political community, is resolutely connected to the loss of human rights, or ‘the right to have rights’. This exposes the limits and failures of modern nation-states and the political and legal frameworks upon which they are built. This presentation will provide a critical reflection of the concept of statelessness and the figure of the refugee, tracing its historical development since World War Two and highlighting the increasingly fragmented and narrowed definitions and categories of people on the move, in exile and lacking political belonging, rights and protection.

Anna laudry photo jpeg edi.jpg

Foreign traffickers and English damsels:
How the othering of migrants persists in UK modern slavery law

Anna Forringer-Beal, PhD candidate, Centre for Multidisciplinary Gender Studies, University of Cambridge

10 March 2021

* Image edited from: (c) British Library, National Vigilance Association 1898 Annual Report, p. 19



Labor rights groups and advocates for migrants are calling for stronger protections for foreign workers and irregular migrants within the UK because leaving the EU exposes foreign nationals to greater vulnerability for labor exploitation. At the same time, legislation meant to protect workers from the most extreme forms of exploitation, such as the Modern Slavery Act of 2015, have been critiqued for sparse protection of foreign nationals from trafficking. With this increased risk of exploitation looming, it is important to question why human trafficking policy has failed to provide comprehensive support for non-UK nationals. I argue that part of the answer lies within the discourse surrounding migrants that arose from the white slavery movement in the early twentieth century. Campaigners conceived of white slavery as a crime where women of all nationalities were forced into prostitution by foreign men. Through the work of social reform groups like the National Vigilance Association, the concept of the foreign “other” became codified into anti-white slavery law. These laws would go on to form the legal basis for anti-modern slavery policy today. This presentation uses feminist genealogical methods to examine how white slavery discourse shifts across time to influence today’s discussions on the trafficking and exploitation of foreign nationals. I argue that early conventions of the foreign other constrain today’s approaches to end modern slavery and inhibit more substantial changes


Life Deserves Living: Teranga Nightclub in Naples as an Urban Blueprint of Care
Discussant: Dr. Lorenzo Vianelli 

Kitya Mark, Mphil in Architecture and Urban Studies, University of Cambridge

09 February 2021

* Image is a film-still from the Guardian documentary ‘Teranga’  



The spatial implications of the Italian asylum process have been the focus of much academic attention in recent years. These discussions, however, largely concentrate on state-sanctioned spaces. They conform to state narratives on hospitality facilities of control and conditioned care, rather than that of those who experience migration. This talk draws on the grassroots space of the Teranga nightclub in Naples created by and for migrants in the city to reveal the limits of this state-oriented spatial and discursive confinement. This urban spatial analysis of Teranga (‘hospitality’ in Wolof) values ‘joy’ space over ‘facility’ space, examining how, instead of the institutional depersonalised state spaces of migrant reception centres, the urban space of the nightclub provides a definition of care that is forged through kinship on the dancefloor. The presentation moves through three parts: positing the nightclub generally and Teranga specifically as a space of joy and care, exploring the significance of the urban site against the exposed realities of migrants in Italy, and finally revealing how future possibilities can be opened up by this space. The Teranga nightclub, I argue, dismantles the idea of substandard hospitality and refuge as an inevitability for migrants, instead asking, what would it mean to demand joy? To demand fulfilment?


Di Mana Bumi Dipijak, Di Situ Pelangi Dijunjung: Migration West and the spatio-temporal configuration of queer Malaysian identities in London

Ash Layo Masing, MPhil candidate, Geographical Research, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

08  December 2020

*cover photo taken from the following source



This study is concerned with understanding the complex tensions between national and queer identity in the context of migration, especially migration from the periphery towards the colonial West; here, issues of modernity, progress, and futurity become contested when the possibility for a queer way of being is made available within the nations responsible for rendering queerness an impossibility in many non-Western states. Using approaches at the intersection of nationalism, queer theory, and post-colonialism, I specifically focus on queer Malaysians in London, and the ways migration towards a ‘liberating’ West has informed their relationship to, and articulation of their nationality and sexualities. After conducting five semi-structured interviews with LGBT+ identifying Malaysian migrants, I conclude that moving to London has configured these identities along spatial and temporal lines, where queerness is rendered a new kind of present and potential future, whilst Malaysian identity is conceptualised as a spectre from a ‘repressive’ past. Given the underlying assemblages of homonationalism and Western hegemony that subsume queerness under the tent of Western values, progression, modernity, and futurity are made available through the internalisation of a Western queer politics and the formation of new (homo)national affiliations.


Gendered Migration Bans on Women Migrant Domestic Workers: A Comparative Analysis of Labour-Sending States in Asia

Sophie Henderson, Visiting Scholar at the Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement, University of Cambridge

09 June 2020


Increasing numbers of women in Asia are independently migrating abroad for work, particularly in the domestic work sector. While this offers new economic opportunities, it also exposes them to situations of disadvantage and exploitation. As a knee-jerk response to highly publicised cases of abuse, many labour-sending states in Asia are actively enforcing gendered migration policies that ban women domestic workers from migrating abroad. My research analyses migration bans and restrictive policies on domestic workers in four country case studies: Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Nepal and Indonesia, and compares the embedded gender norms and paternalistic politics underlying the bans in each country. I use a model of circular policy making to contend that the four sending governments are continuing to implement migration bans despite knowing their lack of effectiveness in protecting women from abuse. Rather, the discriminatory restrictions heighten the vulnerability of domestic workers to trafficking and violence by pushing prospective workers into irregular pathways fraught with risk. I propose alternative measures to the migration bans on women domestic workers, which address the causes and sources of exploitation without restricting their freedom of movement and right to work.

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