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Speaker: Professor Kirsten McConnachie (University of East Anglia)

25 May 2022



The impact of borders on refugees’ lives has been extensively analysed in relation to border control, border policing and border violence. However, borders can also be generative, shaping non-state political and social orders at multiple levels. This lecture examines the relationship between border regimes and the social orders created in displacement, drawing on empirical work with refugees from Burma living in Thailand, Malaysia and India. Tracing changing configurations of governance across these different contexts shows how refugee-led organisations are constituted by bordering processes from their country of origin, countries of asylum, and the global regime of refugee protection. However, refugee community organisations do not merely replicate existing border struggles but also present alternative social orders. Refugee leaders and community organisations are governing from below to provide social care and local protection, and to instil hope and courage in the face of hopelessness and insecurity. In this work of shared risks and resources there is a rejection of bordered hierarchies and an assertion of an alternative political community or commons.

Download the lecture poster



Kirsten McConnachie is Professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of East Anglia (UEA). She joined UEA as a Senior Lecturer in Law in April 2018, having previously held posts at the University of Warwick (Assistant Professor, 2015-2018), University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre (Junior Research Fellow, 2012-2015), and the University of Edinburgh (Research Fellow 2011-2012). She studied at Queen's University Belfast (PhD in Law), University of Nottingham (LLM in the Law of Armed Conflict) and the University of Glasgow (LLB in Scots Law).

She has extensive research expertise in refugee studies, particularly on refugee-led governance systems. She has a particular regional interest in southeast Asia, having worked first with Karen refugees living in camps in Thailand and more recently with ethnic Chin refugees in Malaysia and India. Her book, Governing Refugees (Routledge 2014), analysed governance and justice in refugee camps in Thailand and was awarded the Socio-Legal Studies Association early career book prize for 2015. She has also published on topics including governance by armed groups; the history and management of refugee camps; legal pluralism and non-state justice systems; forced migration in southeast Asia; the role of victims in transitional justice; and constitutional reform. A common thread in this work is a focus on pluralistic governance and on the role of non-state actors in governance.


The Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture is named in honour of Professor Elizabeth Colson, a renowned anthropologist.