What’s missing from legal geography and materialist studies of law? Absence and the assembling of asylum appeal hearings in Europe

Nick Gill, Jennifer Allsopp, Andrew Burridge, Dan Fisher, Melanie Griffiths, Jessica Hambly, Nicole Hoellerer, Natalia Paszkiewicz, Rebecca Rotter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


There is an absence of absence in legal geography and materialist studies of the law. Drawing on a multi-sited ethnography of European asylum appeal hearings, this paper illustrates the importance of absences for a fully-fledged materiality of legal events. We show how absent materials impact hearings, that non-attending participants profoundly influence them, and that even when participants are physically present, they are often simultaneously absent in other, psychological registers. In so doing we demonstrate the importance and productivity of thinking not only about law’s omnipresence but also the absences that shape the way law is experienced and practised. We show that attending to the distribution of absence and presence at legal hearings is a way to critically engage with legal performance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Early online date1 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jul 2020


  • absence
  • asylum
  • ethnography
  • Europe
  • law
  • materiality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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