SSAHE (Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment) would like to invite you to its November webinar which will take place on 8 November 2021 at 5 PM (UK time).

The webinar is free but please register as soon as possible via Eventbrite to secure your place.

For several years now, anti-immigrant legislation and discourse in the UK have made it increasingly difficult for migrants to access health services, and have had a detrimental impact on migrant health and wellbeing. Healthcare provision in immigration detention is woefully inadequate; visa checks in hospitals prevent certain groups of migrants from accessing much-needed medical care; and more broadly, the hostile environment interferes with migrants’ access to resources and services, such as decent housing, which are key social determinants of health. The negative impact of the hostile environment on migrant health has become even more consequential during the Covid-19 pandemic, with significant repercussions for migrant communities, and indeed, the UK as a whole. This webinar will explore the ways in which the hostile environment has further marginalised migrant groups, and disrupted migrants’ access to public health services, during the Covid-19 pandemic, situating this within a context of increasing ‘healthcare chauvinism’ within the UK.


Nationalism and the hostile environment in pandemic Britain

Arianne Shahvisi, Brighton & Sussex Medical School

In this talk, I describe the nature, origins, and contradictions of the hostile environment in the UK. I then explore the ways in which this hostility has increased the threat of Covid-19 for particular groups, leading to yet another counterexample to the idea that we are “all in this together.” I finish by showing that, far from uniting us against a shared nemesis, the Covid-19 pandemic has both fuelled, and been fuelled by, racism and nationalism, and has exacerbated existing health inequalities.

Arianne Shahvisi is Senior Lecturer in Ethics at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. She has broad philosophical interests which include race, gender, and migration, and she has published articles and book chapters across these areas. Arianne writes regularly for the London Review of Books and has also been published in The Guardian, The Independent, Prospect, and The Economist. She is writing a book on the philosophy of social justice, which will be published by Penguin in 2022.

The NHS, the UK ‘national home’, and the Covid-19 Pandemic

Gwyneth Lonergan, Lancaster University

This presentation takes as its starting point an under-explored aspect of NHS bordering under the 2014 Immigration Act: the introduction of the ‘health levy’ and the concomitant redefinition of who could be considered ‘at home’ in the UK. This explicit redefinition of the ‘national home’ through healthcare bordering both relied upon, and reinforced, a particular nationalist imaginary around the NHS. This construction of a ‘national home’ through the NHS has also been present in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as public discourses around the need to support and protect ‘our NHS’ have reinforced this nationalist imaginary while obscuring the disproportionate impact of Covid (as noted by James & Valluvan, 2020) on migrant and ethnic minority healthcare workers.

Gwyneth Lonergan is a Wellcome Trust postdoctoral research fellow in Social Science and Bioethics in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University. Her current project researches migrant women’s experiences of maternity care within the NHS in the north of England. Her research interests include migration, citizenship, and reproduction and reproductive justice.

Emotional Borderwork: Techniques of affective governmentality and resistance in the context of Covid-19

Jessica Potter and Isabel Meier, Docs Not Cops

Our presentation explores emotional borderwork as a technique of affective governmentality and resistance in the everyday lives of migrants and healthcare professionals in the UK in the context of Covid-19. It brings together the empirical work of Isabel with migrants as well activist groups involved in border struggles in London and that of Jessica with healthcare professionals working in the National Healthcare Service in the UK. Through pointing at different facets of emotional borderwork in different bordering contexts in the UK, we hope to produce insights into the emotional work involved in not just the reproduction of the border through, for example, the work of healthcare professionals but also the emotional labours necessary to reproduce life at the border as well as resistance and solidarity.

Dr Jessica Potter is a Consultant specialising in Respiratory Medicine and Tuberculosis. Her research uses qualitative methods to explore healthcare access. She is particularly interested in the experience of migrants and alongside research in this field, Jess campaigns for the right to health for all with a number of organisations.

Isabel Meier is postdoctoral researcher based in London. She holds a PhD from the University of East London Drawing on her own experience as activist in the UK and Germany, her PhD thesis explored how migrants negotiate political possibilities and affective bordering practices. Her current research interests are oriented around four main areas: the emotional politics of bordering, the politics of temporality, politics of refusals, political possibilities beyond citizenship.


Bahriye Kemal (Kent), Ann Phoenix (UCL), Grainne McMahon (Huddersfield)