SSAHE (Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment) would like to invite you to its March special webinar taking place on Monday 28 March, 6-7.30pm. Please note the later start time than recent events.

The event will be in-person and free and aimed at SSAHE members and those who have worked with us in the past years. We will record it and hope to live stream it. Please register on EventBrite to attend either the in-person event (so we can keep an eye on numbers to ensure social distancing) or to receive a joining link for the live stream.

This special event is dedicated to exploring the trajectory of SSAHE, discussing its contributions so far, and considering where we find ourselves and where we are going to in terms of our aims, our role as social scientists and activists who campaign against the hostile environment, and what our energies can best be directed to in the future.

SSAHE began as a working group of the Academy of Social Scientists but developed into an independent group dedicated to using our expertise and our research as social scientists and political activists, working with others in the field of politics and policy around migration and racism, to make a difference. Our aims have been to intervene in the production of knowledge about the UK’s practices, discourses, policies, and struggles, and to politically engage with the ‘hostile environment’. The term ‘hostile environment’ was introduced as encapsulating the aims of the UK’s migration policy by Theresa May, but has characterised and continues to characterise the politics and policies of the UK government. This extends beyond migration and refugees to new impositions which affect all our lives, but which particularly impact on racialisation processes, discourses and policies that are inimical to inclusion and participation in the UK today.

After three events in 2018 and 2019 and a report, ‘Migration, Racism and the Hostile Environment’, written collectively by nineteen of our original members in 2019, the group has since grown exponentially. The report was to be launched at a dedicated conference but the pandemic led to the group hosting a series of fifteen webinars, dealing with a range of important issues around the politics and policies of migration, racism, refugees and the state. These webinars have sought to provide a unique space for informed research-led and politics-led discussions on areas where the hostile environment has impacted on Brexit Britain: racism and policing, the politics of care, social reproduction, higher education, decolonisation, racialised state discourse, Brexit and citizens’ rights, patriotism, the break-up of the UK, depoliticisation, digital technologies and bordering, access to public health, and the nationality and borders bill. We have also had a blog and produced briefing papers on key issues, and both these and recordings of the webinars are available on the SSAHE website at

At this in-person event, Nira Yuval-Davis and Corinne Squire will present the origins and history of SSAHE, and Ben Gidley will open up a review of the scope and breadth of the webinars and the insights they have generated, attempting to evaluate the ways in which we have been able to shape and facilitate debates around central areas of concern. Don Flynn and Grainne McMahon will review the work of the social movement opposed to the hostile environment over the past ten years. Can the perspectives opened out by SSAHE help fuse the fragments of migrant rights campaigns into a cohesive challenge to the current policies?

Reflecting on the original aims of the report, how it has provided a background to the groups’ activities, and what it set out to achieve will help us to consider our contributions. This will allow us to take stock of the role of the group and to consider the ways the group wants to move forward.

An important aim of this event is to also provide a space to discuss and debate how our work relates to the work of the broader social movement around the hostile environment and the ways potentially social scientists and those in other fields can contribute towards the fight against such an evolving inimical environment for us all.


On SSAHE Foundations: History and Formation

Nira Yuval-Davis (UEL) and Corinne Squire (Bristol)

Reflecting on our formation, what we have been doing, and the role of social scientists and public intellectuals more generally in the current political environment marked by the Covid-19, and how these relate to debates and battles around race/equality.

Nira Yuval-Davis is Professor Emeritus, Honorary Director of the Research Centre on Migration, Refugees and Belonging (CMRB) at the University of East London. She has been the President of the Research Committee 05 (on Racism, Nationalism, Indigeneity and Ethnic Relations) of the International Sociological Association. She has written widely on intersected gendered nationalisms, racisms, fundamentalisms, citizenships, identities, belonging/s and everyday bordering. Among the books she has authored or co-authored are Woman-Nation-State (1989), Racialized Boundaries (1992), Unsettling Settler Societies (1995), Gender and Nation (1997), The Politics of Belonging: Intersectional Contestations (2011) and Bordering (2019).

Corinne Squire is Chair in Global Inequalities at the School for Policy Studies of the University of Bristol, and research associate at the University of Witwatersrand. Her research interests are in HIV and citizenship, refugee politics and education, and narrative theory and methods. Recent publications include Stories changing lives (ed., OUP, 2020) and Researching family narratives (with A. Phoenix and J. Brannen, Sage, 2020). She is a trustee of Positively UK.

SSAHE during the pandemic

Ben Gidley, Birkbeck

Looking reflectively at our work over the last two years, and particularly our online actions.

Ben Gidley is a Senior Lecturer in Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London, and research associate of the Birkbeck Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, member of the International Centre for the Study of Racism at Edge Hill, and Editorial Board member of MONITOR Global intelligence on Racism.

Challenging and diminishing the hostile environment

Grainne McMahon (Huddersfield) and Don Flynn

Unpicking and analysing where we – as critical scholars and in the wider movement – have got to in challenging and diminishing the hostile environment: where we have made progress and why, where we have been less successful and why, how we develop that work and persist in critical analysis in the face of intensified government action.  

Don Flynn has been involved in work to support the rights of migrants and refugees since the 1970s, when he first encountered the issues as a legal case worker at a London law centre.  He went on to positions as policy worker at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and the founding director of the Migrants’ Rights Network.

Grainne McMahon is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Huddersfield, and a member of Centre for Citizenship, Conflict, Identity and Diversity. Grainne researches feminism and feminist activism, anti-racism and human rights activism, social movements, and young people’s social, political, cultural, and civic participation. She is the Research Lead and a Trustee for RAPAR, a human rights organisation based in Manchester, UK working with displaced people, Co-Convenor of the British Sociological Association’s Gender and Feminism Study Group, Co-Founder of, and on twitter as @grainnemcmahon.


Floya Anthias, FAcSS, is an anti-racist and feminist academic whose work has been concerned with inequalities and different forms of oppression and power relations and their intersections. Having held professorships at a number of UK Universities, she is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Social Justice at the University of Roehampton. Floya was born in Cyprus and migrated as a small child with her parents to Britain. Her most recent book is Translocational Belongings: Intersectional Dilemmas and Social Inequalities (Routledge 2020).

Bahriye Kemal is a Lecturer in Contemporary and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent, a writer/poet, and peace activist. She has published widely on space, place and displacement, borders and conflict, and solidarity/activism as related to postcolonial east Mediterranean and Britain. She is author and editor of numerous books and journals, including Writing Cyprus Postcolonial and Partitioned Literatures of Place and Space (Routledge, 2020), Nicosia Beyond: Barriers: Voices from a Divided City (Saqi, 2019), and Visa Stories: Experiences between Law and Migration (2013). She is an active member of organisations that work with displaced people, including serving as trustee for Kent Refugee Help, and a mentor for Cara’s Syrian Programme.

Organising committee: Molly Andrew (Helsinki), Floya Anthias (Roehampton), Don Flynn, Ben Gidley (Birkbeck), Bahriye Kemal (Kent), Grainne McMahon (Huddersfield), Nira Yuval-Davis (UEL).