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Public Seminar Series, Michaelmas term 2018

Series convenors: Professor Matthew Gibney, Professor Cathryn Costello, Professor Tom Scott-Smith

Seminar held on 24 October 2018

About the seminar

Asylum seekers, refugees, and undocumented migrants often draw attention to the global colonial histories which give context to their present situation. And yet these connections are rarely made by academics. This presentation explores aspects of my recent book ‘Asylum After Empire: Postcolonial Legacies in the Politics of Asylum Seeking’. The aim of the book is to begin theorising asylum policy within the context of such histories; to make sense of contemporary public policy developments on asylum within the context of histories of colonialism. The book is a historical sociology which brings together postcolonial and decolonial theories on the hierarchical ordering of human beings, troubling the supposedly universal category of ‘man’ within the epistemological framework of ‘modernity’, and naming the response of the British state (which acts as the case study) to contemporary asylum seekers as an example of the coloniality of power. It is an attempt to make sense of the dehumanisation of asylum seekers not as racism, but as enmeshed within interconnected histories -of ideas of distinct geographically located ‘races’, of human beings as hierarchy organised in relation to civilization, and of colonial power relations. In this sense, I am taking as my starting point the sophisticated analyses of forced migrants and sans-papiers and elaborating their conclusions with academic study.

About the speaker

Lucy Mayblin joined the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, in 2016 as Assistant Professor and ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellow. Lucy is a Political Sociologist and holds a first class degree from the University of Birmingham and Distinctions at Masters level from the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick. Her ESRC-funded doctoral research at the University of Warwick analysed the connections between Britain’s colonial past and asylum policy today. Following this she worked with Professor Gill Valentine on the ERC funded LIVEDIFFERENCE project at the University of Sheffield which investigated the capacity for communities and individuals to live with difference in the 21st century. She is co-convenor of the British Sociological Association study group on ‘Diaspora, Migration and Transnationalism’ and an external examiner for Sociology at the LSE.

Lucy’s research focuses on the politics of asylum. Her 2017 book Asylum After Empire, which won the 2018 Philip Abrams Memorial Prize, offers a historical institutionalist analysis of the ways in which Britain’s colonial past continues to influence contemporary British asylum policy in terms of ideas of insiders, outsiders, the deserving and the undeserving. This includes efforts by the British government to exclude colonised peoples from access to human rights (including the right to asylum) at the inception of the human rights regime.

Lucy’s new project, funded through an ESRC Future Research Leaders grant, focuses on the politics of asylum, welfare and work in Britain. Set against the backdrop of widespread political and public hostility to asylum seekers coupled with the austerity agenda and a shrinking welfare state, the project looks at the ban on working for the majority of asylum seekers and the low levels of welfare support paid to them. The project investigates how policy is made in relation to asylum seekers’ access to welfare and work, and what the implications of those policies are economically, socially and politically.

Lucy has worked with numerous asylum and refugee organisations as part of her research and is involved with Article 26, a charity which supports asylum seekers to access Higher Education.

Photo: Asylum-seekers leaving Lesvos after the Government authorised them to continue procedures on mainland Greece. Credit: UNHCR/Yorgos Kyvernitis