Living in hostile environments – IRiS seminar series 2020 announced

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Dr Victoria Canning, University of Bristol

We are delighted to host Dr Victoria Canning (University of Bristol) for the opening talk in this term’s IRiS Seminar Series exploring different dimensions and manifestations of hostile environment for refugees and migrants (see the full programme for this term)

Victoria is senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Bristol. She has spent more than a decade working on the rights of migrants, in particular women survivors of violence. Vicky is a trustee at Statewatch, associate director at Border Criminologies at Oxford University, and co-coordinator at the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control. Her talk – Resisting ‘Degradation by Design’: Counteracting Asylum Harms in Northern Europe – will be held on 27 January at 3.30 pm at the University of Birmingham, Muirhead Tower, Room 1150. All welcome!


The increasingly punitive measures taken by European governments to deter people seeking asylum, including increased use of detention, internalised controls, reductions in in-country rights and procedural safeguards, have a hugely damaging impact on the lives and wellbeing of people seeking asylum. Alongside emotional and psychological harms, this paper will outline forms of relational harm, cultural harm and temporal harms which are embedded into the fabric of contemporary asylum systems. These, I argue, are often deliberate and as such can be recognised as ‘degradation by design’ (2019).


Drawing from a two year research project based in Britain, Denmark and Sweden, as well ten years of as activist participation in NGOs and grassroot organisations, this paper evidences the impact of politicised decisions to Other and exclude people seeking asylum, particularly in the lives of women survivors of violence. Reflecting on various tools created with organisations and activists, I invite discussion on how we radically address these architectural harms. After all, anything that has been designed can always be redesigned, and unsafe architecture can always be replaced.

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