Understanding Solidarity amid refugee crises

Recent refugee ‘crises’ have prompted shifts in discourses and practices about refugee protection in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The provision of sanctuary to refugees is an expression of humanitarian solidarity, a commitment to the idea of a common humanity. In most refugee contexts around the world, local civil society actors – groups, communities, and NGOs – are the main providers of support and services to refugees. Media vilification of refugees and migrants, and the rise of popular nationalism, suggests a tension between domestic and humanitarian solidarities. Though much attention has been paid to refugee movements in Europe (less so to events elsewhere), the majority of academic work in these areas has been focused on policy and security issues. There has been little sustained analysis of how theories, discourses and practices of solidarity in host societies reflect and inform responses to refugees.

This interdisciplinary network of scholars aims to address a series of vital, yet understudied questions related to solidarity in the context of refugee crises:
– How do narratives and discourses around refugees construct or degrade (humanitarian) solidarity?
– Do ‘crises’ change the way public and civil society actors respond to the situation of refugees?
– How do practices of solidarity in relation to refugees differ in states that are and are not parties to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol?
– How can cross-cultural comparisons of practices of solidarity towards refugees inform theorising on solidarity?
The network brings philosophical and theoretical analysis to bear on the rapidly developing scholarship on forced migration and refugee studies, and opens up a new area for study, namely, the theory and practice of solidarity in the context of refugee crises.
The project aims to foster a genuinely interdisciplinary dialogue around a set of issues that do not sit neatly within disciplinary boundaries. We also aim to reposition the focus of scholarship geographically: while much attention has been given to the European refugee crisis, and the majority of the theory of solidarity is Western in its assumptions and orientations, our network includes experts in Middle Eastern and Asian contexts. Our exploration of solidarity takes a critical approach to both the idea of ‘crises’ and the purported tension between domestic and humanitarian solidarities.


Lead Academic: Dr Kerri Woods (Leeds)
Dr Alice Nah (York)
Dr Clara Sandelind (Sheffield)
Lead Academic: Dr Kerri Woods (Leeds)
Dr Kerri Woods specialises in contemporary political philosophy, and has written about human rights theory, the idea of cosmopolitan friendship, solidarity, vulnerability, environmental justice and global justice. She is a member of the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment, and Treasurer of the Association for Social and Political Philosophy. Her recent research has examined cosmopolitan accounts of obligations to ‘distant others’ and the role of sentiment in the motivation and justification of such obligations.
Dr Alice Nah (York)
Dr Alice Nah is on the Advisory Board of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (serving as its Chair from 2008-2010), the International Detention Coalition, and Protection International. Her research examines the security and protection of human rights defenders at risk, and asylum and migration in Asia. She is particularly interested in how state authorities, civil society groups, UNHCR, and non-citizens understand the place of migrants and refugees in Asian societies.https://www.york.ac.uk/cahr/about-us/our-staff/nah/
Dr Clara Sandelind (Sheffield)
Dr Clara Sandelind is a Leverhulme Early Career Postdoctoral Research Fellow, on the project “Trust and Solidarity in Scandinavia: Immigration and Narratives of Bounded Communities”. Her research also investigates normative questions on immigration, refugees and borders. In particular, her research aims at scrutinising the relationship between rights to collective self-determination, on the one hand, and the rights of refugees and migrants, on the other hand.
Other staff associated with this project:
Dr Derek Edyvane (Leeds)
Dr James Souter (Leeds)
Joshua Hobbs (Leeds, PhD student)
Dr Ashley Taylor (Sheffield)
Dr Martin Jones (York)
Professor Maggie O’Neill (York)


21st April 2017: Launch event

A talk on ‘The Duties of Refugees’ by Professor Matt Gibney (Oxford University), with Dr Mollie Gerver (University of Leeds) acting as a discussant.
Time and Location: University of Leeds, Social Science Building 14.33, 3pm-5pm.
A podcast featuring the speakers, and developing the discussion, will shortly be available on our website.

21st June 2017: Sheffield Festival of Debate

A panel discussion on ‘What Does Solidarity Mean to You in the Context of Refugee ‘Crises’? This will feature the following exciting line-up of speakers:
– Marcia Vera Espinoza, Research Associate in the “Prospects for International Migration Governance” (MIGPROSP) project, University of Sheffield
– Sarah Fine, Lecturer in Philosophy, Kings College London
– Paul Blomfield (tbc), Member of Parliament for Sheffield Central
– Min Min, Politics and International Relations student at the University of York and former political prisoner in Burma/Myanmar
– Violeta Moreno-Lax (tbc), Lecturer in Law, Queen Mary University of London
– Ashley Taylor, Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Sheffield
– A speaker from City of Sanctuary Sheffield
Time and Location: Brood Cafe Bar @ Roco, Sheffield, 6:00pm to 8:00pm.
The content of this panel discussion will be developed into a concept note, which will serve as a prompt for the workshops which follow.
For more information, see the Sheffield Festival of Debate website:
Tickets are free, and available from the following link:

21st-22nd September 2017: Workshop University of Leeds

Confirmed speakers at the workshop include Professor Christine Straehle (Groeningen University), Professor Maggie O’Neill (University of York), Dr Mihaela Mihai (University of Edinburgh), Dr Violeta Moreno-Law (QMUL), and Dr James Souter (University of Leeds).
Time and Location: TBC

10th November 2017: Workshop University of York

Confirmed speakers at this workshop include Dr Alice Nah (University of York), Dr Clara Sandelind (University of Sheffield), and Dr Kerri Woods (University of Leeds).
Time and Location: TBC

January 2018: Sandpit event

The final event will be a closed workshop developing the project research outputs.
Time and Location: TBC
The exact date of the event will be confirmed nearer the time.
Please check back regularly as further details for these events will be added in due course.

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