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Research

My research interests are in contemporary and postcolonial literature and culture, most recently with a focus on concepts of migration and diaspora. My most recent book, Contemporary Asylum Narratives: Representing Refugees in the Twenty-First Century, identifies an emerging canon of literature concerning refugees and asylum seekers in contemporary Britain. Looking at writers like Graham Swift, Caryl Philips, Kate Clanchy, and plays by Timberlake Wertenbaker and Kay Adshead, the critical analyses in the book are set against a series of asylum and immigration legislations passed by the Labour government at the turn of the century. My aim was to bring literary and cultural criticism to bear on the debate about asylum by exploring the representational politics that determine our responses to stateless individuals and forced migrants.

A key thesis of the book is that those traditional narratives of diasporic accommodation that have historically shaped discourses of migration haven’t always been well-suited to analysing the legally precarious state of seeking asylum. Forced migrants’ unpredictable patterns of movement, and their shifting legal status, limit their capacity for political self-determination and for asserting a potentially affirmative ‘hybrid’ identity of the kind open to legally legitimated migrants. It identifies a transition from diasporic modes of belonging to the need for identifications that recognise the political, social and legal challenges that determine the lives of forced migrants.

I also argue that asylum disrupts the coherence of key evolving concepts in the humanities, namely cosmopolitanism and globalisation, which often include migration as a central idea while overlooking the particularity of the asylum experience. So in many respects the book responds to the need for new critical and theoretical paradigms that place the figure of the refugee at the centre of contemporary critical inquiry.

My interdisciplinary approach aims to build connections between literary-cultural criticism and the political and social sciences. I have published on fiction, film and theatre in interdisciplinary journals, including an article on climate change. I am a regular contributor to openDemocracy, reporting on migration issues.

I am currently working on plans for my next monograph, which examines ‘cultures’ of humanitarianism.