Migration, Racism and the Hostile Environment: Making the Case for Social Sciences

Aurelien Mondon, Aaron Winter

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Brexit, the European immigration and refugee situation and the Grenfell and Windrush scandals are just some of the recent major events which issues of migration have been at the heart of British social and political agenda. These highlight racism and the fundamental relations people who have settled in the UK have to British collective identity and belonging as well as to the British economy, polity and social relations. 9.4 million UK residents are foreign-born, 14% of the population, just over a third of whom are EU-born. Less than 10% of UK residents are not UK nationals. 20% of the population is of an ethnicity other than White British.

Social scientists have observed and analysed such public issues and the public policies that both framed and resulted from them throughout the years. In doing so they have not only helped to document and analyse them but contributed towards their critique and problematisation as part of a public intellectual endeavour towards a more equal and just society. In doing so, much of social sciences research has been empirically informed, often methodologically innovative, theoretically productive and has contributed to our understanding of how processes of racialization and migration have been experienced in diverse ways by different groupings. In this report we aim to highlight some of these contributions and their importance to British society and institutions.

At the end of this report, we list, as Further Readings, some of the main contributions members of AcSS and other social scientists have made throughout the years in the field of migration and refugees, racism, and belonging. Rather than attempting to sum up these contributions in the report itself, however, we have selected some of the main issues in this field of study, which present particular challenges to contemporary British society and institutions. We focus in this report on the specific contributions of social sciences to these issues.

British social science has been playing for many years an important, often leading, innovative conceptual role in international social science debates. Although the issues we study are presented within their historical and locational contexts, we focus in this report on present day issues which have been crucial to our areas of study, such as the development of a ‘hostile environment’ and everyday bordering as a major governmental technology in the control and disciplining of diversity and discourses on migrants and racialized minorities. We also examine how the issues we have been studying have been affected by the rise of extreme right and neo-nativist politics in the UK and the role of Brexit in these, as well as the ways different groups and social movements have been resisting these processes of exclusion and racialisation.

In this report, we do not present British social sciences as unified and non-conflictual; nor do we see social sciences in the UK as isolated from professional or political developments in other countries and regions. In addition, the report is multi-disciplinary; it covers research from the fields of psychosocial studies, sociology, social policy, economics and politics. It stretches from the local, to the regional and the national. And it is consistentlyintersectional, addressing gender, class, generation, race, ethnicity and religion.

The report has been sponsored by the British Sociological Association; BSA Race and Ethnicity Study Group; BSA Migration and Diaspora Group; BSA Sociology of Rights Group; CMRB (Centre for research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging, UEL); IRIS (Institute for Research on Superdiversity, UoB; Migrants Organize; Migrants’ Rights Network; People’s Permanent Tribunal; ROTA (Race on the Agenda)

To cite the report: Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment (2020) Migration, Racism and the Hostile Environment: Making the Case for the Social Sciences, London: Academy of Social Sciences special interest group on Migration, Refugees and Settlement.

Social Scientists Against The Hostile Environment (SSAHE):
Prof. Molly Andrews; Prof. Madeleine Arnot; Prof. Floya Anthias; Dr. Stephen Ashe; Prof. Avtar Brah; Prof Giorgia Dona; Dr. Umut Erel; Dr. Ben Gidley; Rachel Humphris; Prof. Elenore Kofman; Dr. Aurelien Mondon; Prof. Karim Murji; Prof. Ann Phoenix; Prof. Nando Sigona; Prof. Corinne Squire; Dr. Nuria Targarona; Dr. Georgie Wemyss; Dr. Aaron Winter; Prof. Nira Yuval-Davis.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages50
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


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