Bodies, borders, justice

This research challenge explores how state borders create and manage sexual, racial, cultural, age, ability and class differences. It examines the effects of bordering on human relationships, on rights and on justice.

International mobility – often labelled as ‘migration’ – tends to come with weakened rights and vulnerability to injustice, ranging from oppressive inclusion to violent exclusion. State borders create, reflect and reinforce many other forms of bordering within state territories manifesting, for example, in ‘hostile environment’ policies and their consequences.

The ‘bodies, borders, justice’ research challenge studies how the making of borders intersects with and contributes to the construction of sexual, racial, cultural, age, ability and class differences. Borders and differences are both shaped by and structure personal relationships, and this research challenge foregrounds the role of emotions in facilitating or undermining interpersonal bonds in contexts such as schools, workplaces, civil society and family homes.

From a critical perspective, we unpack the past and present (re)production of embodied and territorialised cultures, including languages, religions and artistic practices, through legal and social institutions in the global North and South. Our overarching aim is to develop, in dialogue with other academics, professionals and activists, strategies to expand the possibilities of justice in a mobile world.

Key concerns include:

  • How do state bordering practices and nationalised imaginaries contribute to creating other social categories, particularly ‘race’?
  • How are identities mediated by the representation of mobility in written, oral and visual discourses?
  • What common processes lie behind the subordination of various mobile populations?
  • What conceptions of justice legitimise attempts to immobilise people for certain periods in specific locations, from the state to the prison?
  • How can empirical research trouble the prevailing spatial and temporal assumptions about human mobility?

Selected research projects:

ETHOS – Toward an empirically informed theory of justice and fairness

Queer Muslim Asylum

Memorials to people who have died and to those missing during migration

Who is worthy of ‘our’ support? An exploration of the causes, impact and possible alternatives to the relative entitlements associated with disability and forced migration in UK.

Borders and Borderlands: A research network on historical representations of border territories and communities (A UoB research network run by Professor Helen Fulton)

Becoming Vulnerable: developing artistic practices of renaturalisation in contested wetland ecologies (AHRC SWW DTP Doctoral Research Project – Sage Brice)



17th December 2019, 13.00-14.30

Migration and Education Workshop

This workshop will bring together School of Education researchers and other Migration Mobilities Bristol (MMB) members with an interest in intersectional inequalities. Invited participants will present their past, current or planned work in the field of education and migration. We will try to identify recurring themes and see how they connect to MMB’s four research challenges (Imagination, Belonging, Futures; Coercion, Conflict, Resistance; Trade, Labour, Capital; and Bodies, Borders, Justice). We will discuss how MMB can support upcoming research activities and there will be time at the end for networking.

The event is organised by the MMB research challenge, ‘Bodies, Borders, Justice‘. If you are interested in joining the discussion, please register on the Eventbrite page. Tea and coffee will be provided – you are welcome to bring your own lunch!


13th May 2019,  5-7 pm

Arts Against Racism and Borders

As Brexit debates and the Hostile Environment have shown, the impulse to erect borders against racialised populations is a powerful force in contemporary politics. To counter its devastating effects and communicate with a wide range of audiences, researchers and activists cannot appeal exclusively to causal arguments. This workshop discussed artistic engagements with those subject to racial injustice and consider how their creativity can be mobilised to advance the theory of free movement. This will be the first workshop of the Bodies, Borders, Justice research challenge.

Speakers included:

  • Zita Holbourne (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, Artists Union England)
  • Agata Vitale (Bath Spa University)
  • Judy Ryde (Trauma Foundation South West)