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Dr Hiba Salem (RSC and Campion Hall) and Dr Nick Austin (Campion Hall and the Faculty of Theology and Religion) will be leading a multidisciplinary research seminar in Trinity Term 2023. 

Campion Hall Seminar Series

Hope in Hopeless Situations: Agency and Meaning in Conflict, Displacement and Climate Change

Indeterminacy and uncertainty mark the experiences of millions today. Lives and outlooks are navigated daily in contexts affected by conflict, displacement, climate change. Economic and health crises add to the challenges in facing the future with hope. Yet, as we listen to the experiences of those affected by intensely adverse circumstances, it becomes clear that in this uncertainty and waiting for a better future, time carries significant meaning. It is within this in-betweenness, between past and future states of being, that individuals actively construct coping strategies and imagine alternative futures. This, as Gabriel Marcel (1967) notes, signifies the link between hope and waiting: waiting that is active and meaningful even during times of uncertainty.

This series focuses on the theme of “hope”, a phenomenon receiving increasing interest from scholars across multiple disciplines. While the value of hope is debated across these perspectives, and critiques of hope can be valuable, this series turns its attention to ways hope may nurture agency and meaning even within the most hopeless situations. Examining this theme across some of the most pressing issues facing the world today, this series will examine:

  • What are the meanings of hope, and how are they generated and maintained in challenging situations?
  • How can hope help individuals and communities imagine and define alternative futures?
  • How can these understandings of hope enrich our own work and enable action-oriented responses to uncertainty?

This seminar series, hosted by Campion Hall, covers understandings of hope from varying disciplines, including education, theology, anthropology, and ecology. The series will bring together academics as well as practitioners to enable an exchange of insights, exploring the theme of hope across varying contexts and applications. Learning from these situations, this series aims to inspire hopeful responses within our own work and responses to today’s challenges.

Seminar leaders

Dr Hiba Salem is the Pedro Arrupe Fellow in Forced Migration Studies at Campion Hall and the Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford.

Dr Nick Austin is a Theological Ethicist at Campion Hall and the Faculty of Theology and Religion, Oxford.


This seminar series is open to Graduate Students and Academics in the University of Oxford and other invited Academics. Participants should commit to attending the majority of the six seminars. Participants will receive a paper of 3,000-5,000 words a week in advance of each seminar, and are asked to read in advance.

Seminar schedule

All six seminars will take place from 4pm - 5.30pm at Campion Hall (Seminar Room).

25 April

Dr David Johnson: Hope, dreams, and aspirations of students in the aftermath of the civil war, Ebola, and floods in Sierra Leone

Dr David Johnson is a Reader in Comparative and International Education and a Chartered Educational Psychologist. His research focuses on learning progress and outcomes over time, and the links between education and human flourishing across contexts.

2 May

Dr Nick Austin: Practising hope: accompaniment and the vices and virtues of hope

Dr Nick Austin is Master and Senior Fellow in Theological Ethics at Campion Hall. His research focuses on understanding the virtues and how the virtues can shed light on various ethical issues.

16 May

Dr Hiba Salem: Creating meaningful spaces as Syrian refugee youth: hope in protracted displacement

Dr Hiba Salem is a Research Fellow at Campion Hall in association with the Refugee Studies Centre. Her research focuses on youth aspirations and wellbeing in contexts of protracted displacement.

30 May

Dr Aliya Khalid: Education, agency and hope: mothers' aspirations for their daughters' education in contexts of socio-economic constraint

Dr Aliya Khalid is a lecturer at the Department of Education. Her main area of work is on gendered inequalities and critical agency and hope, especially in conditions of disadvantage.

6 June

Dr Séverine Deneulin: Hope in contexts of socio-ecological destruction: reflections from Latin America’s infrastructure and extractive projects

Dr Séverine Deneulin is Director of International Development at the Laudato Si’ Research Institute and Associate Fellow at the Oxford Department of International Development. Her research focuses on development ethics, bringing social sciences in dialogue with religious traditions on issues of global socio-economic development and sustainability. 

13 June 

Dr Maria Jose Ventura Alfaro: Hope in the shaping of feminist futures: exploring women's movements in Mexico City

Dr Maria Jose Ventura Alfaro works as a Lecturer of International Development and Social Sciences at the University of Bath. Awarded in 2022, her PhD explores State and systemic violence against women in Mexico as well as feminist grassroot movements in Mexico City. Her research interests include women's studies, feminist decolonial theory, and social movement theory. 

Enquiries and registration 

Please contact Dr Hiba Salem ( if you would like to attend.

Details at Campion Hall