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Graduate Seminars

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!

The Graduate Migration Research Seminar Series


Graduate Migration Research
Seminar Series, Easter 2022

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.

How/why study migration? A critical graduate conversation about epistemological, methodological, and ethical challenges

Beja Protner, PhD candidate, Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

06 Mar 2020

Group discussion on the epistemological and ethical issues involved in doing qualitative research in migration studies and based on Heath Cabot's article (2019): “The business of anthropology and the European refugee regime.”

Latinx Immigrant Experience with Chronic Illness in Central Texas: Reframing Agency through Nepantla

Scott J. Spivey Provencion, MPhil candidate in Health, Medicine and Society, University of Cambridge

04 Feb 2020

Scott employed anthropological methodology and Gloria Anzaldúa’s iteration of nepantla to theorize how documented Latinx immigrants in Central Texas can regain agency in their chronic illness management, and posit the potential to promote social change.  

Relocated confianza: Personal and structural trust in Salvadoran migration

Claire Moll Namas, PhD candidate, Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

12 Nov 2019

Claire offers that after forty years of consistent movement from El Salvador to the United States, the concept of confianza (best translated as deep trust) and its numerous relocated networks must be considered alongside economics and security to gain a more holistic picture as to why people migrate.

Beyond the 'Jungle': Exploring the ephemerality of encampment in Calais

Maria Hagan, PhD candidate, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

14 May 2019

Since the demolition of the Calais ‘Jungle’ in October 2016, the French state has hardened its policies against informal encampments. Maria discussed the implications of this new form of governance at the border zone, in a 'post-Calais' context.

Art, Translanguage, and Gendered Learnings in Pedagogical Setting: A New Approach to Learn 'with' Migrant Women in London

Rabia Nasimi, doctoral candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge

23 Apr 2019

This presentation is based on  observations and reflective notes taken after a series of art workshops organised for a group of Afghan, Syrian, Ukranian and Iraqi women in an NGO in West London. 

Everyday Functionalists and the Limits of Politicized National Identity: The Case of Officers Seconded to Frontex and EASO in Lesvos

Gil Thompson, doctoral candidate, Global and Transregional Studies, Free University, Berlin

26 Feb 2019

This investigation focuses on member state police and asylum officers seconded by Frontex and EASO to support the Greek government in Lesvos.

Electronic Tagging of Asylum Seekers in the UK

Devika Ranjan, masters student, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

27 Nov 2018

This talk discusses the experiences of asylum-seekers who have been electronically tagged in the UK; their struggles and their methods of resistance. 

The Inclusion of Vulnerable Migrants in Brazil: Through the Lenses of the Capability Approach

Aline Khoury, PhD student, Development Studies

07 May 2018

This talk brought insights to discussions on why vulnerable migrants choose to move to a developing country using a case study on vulnerable migrants in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Transnational Rural Livelihoods in Times of War and Peace: An Ethnographic Study of Syrian Refugees in Mafraq, Jordan

Ann-Christin Wagner, doctoral candidate, University of Edinburgh

24 Apr 2018

This presentation argued that to make sense of the spatial deployment of refugee flows during the Syrian civil war, current displacement needs to be studied in the context of longer mobility histories in the Levant.

Immigration in the Brexit Campaign

Alexandra Bulat, research student, University College London (UCL)

20 Feb 2018

This study focused on how immigration was spoken about in political ephemera distributed during the referendum campaign. 

Immigration Policy Making Beyond 'Western Liberal Democracies'

Katharina Natter, doctoral researcher, University of Amsterdam

06 Feb 2018

This presentation called for a more nuanced theorizing of immigration policymaking by moving beyond simplistic dichotomies of Western/non-Western and democratic/autocratic.

The Uncertain Position of Syrian Men in the Refugee Response

Lewis Turner, PhD candidate, SOAS

30 May 2017

Syrian men have a socially constructed, and politically potent, undefined position in the refugee response.

Manufacturing Difference: Swiss Institutional Responses to Intimate Partner Violence

Faten Khazaei, visiting PhD student, Social Anthropology

28 Feb 2017

While intimate partner violence was originally understood to be intrinsically related to gender, more recent public debate in Switzerland regarding this issue has focused on migration.

A Business Empire and Its Migrants: Race, Gender, and Shell Expatriation through the 20th Century

Sarah Kunz, PhD candidate, UCL

24 Jan 2017

This presentation explores the historical case of expatriation with the Royal Dutch Shell between 1907 and 1993.

Mosaics of Masculinity: Gendering the Experience of Male Syrian Refugees in Egypt

Magdalena Sauerbaum, PhD candidate, SOAS

17 Jan 2017

This presentation will focus on the emotion of fear among Syrian men Magdalena met in Cairo.

Ordering the Syrian Displacement: Dispossession and the Power of Documents

Veronica Ferreri, PhD candidate, SOAS

29 Nov 2016

This presentation traces the trajectories of displacement of a Qusayri Syrian community living in an informal camp, whose members define themselves as mutasharrid [dispossessed].

Stereotype, Appropriation, and Migration: French Responses to the Great Polish Emigration in the 19th Century

Maeve Devitt Tremblay, PhD candidate, Faculty of History

01 Nov 2016

This presentation will investigate French responses to the Great Emigration (1831-1870), a migration of thousands of cultural and political elite from the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to Western Europe.

Children in Za'tari: Growing Up in Jordan's Largest Refugee Camp

Melissa Gatter, MPhil, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

01 Jun 2016

This event featured CMS Board Member and MPhil student Melissa Gatter, who discussed her fieldwork in Za'tari refugee camp.

Political Responses to Immigration: Comparing Luxembourg and Switzerland

Léonie de Jonge, PhD student, POLIS

15 May 2016

This presentation analyses the so-called rise of populism across the EU.

Innovative Waithood: Ruptures to Historical and Contemporary Notions of Belonging in South Africa

Kim Harrisberg, MPhil student, African Studies

03 May 2016

This presentation challenges our understanding of waiting and belonging for migrants in South Africa.

Media Portrayal of the Retake of Italian Emigration 2008-2015

Lorena Gazzotti, PhD student, Development Studies

17 Apr 2016

This presentation explores the media's portrayal of young Italians emigrating for school and work.

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