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Dr Olivia Sheringham

  • Overview



    Olivia is a social and cultural geographer whose research interests and expertise span home, migration and belonging in urban contexts; postcolonialism and geographies of encounter; religion and migration; and creative and collaborative practice. Her book (co-written with Robin Cohen), Encountering Difference (2016), critically engages with theories and practices of diaspora and creolization, historically and in relation to contemporary urban spaces. More recently, she has written a book (with Maria Villares) Religion, Migration and Business (2020), which explores the intersections between migration, Pentecostalism and migrants’ entrepreneurial practices, in the context of ‘austerity Britain’.

    She has worked with artists, in particular Janetka Platun with whom she collaborates through the platform Poiesis. Projects include Globe, and a forthcoming piece on the theme of borders and bordering in Thames Estuary, which includes working with an urban ecologist. She has also worked in partnership with arts-based refugee charity Stories & Supper to develop and deliver a project on storytelling, food and welcome with refugees and local residents in Waltham Forest, London.

    She has recently been awarded a British Academy/Wolfson early-career fellowship to pursue a project entitled, ‘Home-city Spaces of Care: Networks of Solidarity and Belonging for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in London’ over the next three years (2023-2026).

    Before joining Birkbeck in early 2020, she lectured at Queen Mary University of London and held post-doctoral positions at the International Migration Institute, University of Oxford, and the Centre for Studies of Home, QMUL.


    • BA Modern Languages
    • MA Latin American Studies
    • MA Cultural Geography
    • PhD Geography
    • Post-graduate Certificate in Academic Practice

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Programme Director, BSc Geography and International Development
    • Departmental Library Representative
    • Department Employability Lead

    Honours and awards

    • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy , Advance HE,
    • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), RGS (IBG),
  • Research


    Research overview

    Olivia’s current research focuses on exploring the potential of creative and collaborative practice for fostering spaces of welcome for migrants and refugees in urban contexts in the ‘global North’. She is also developing research that explores themes of borders and bordering in relation to processes of human and non-human migration and displacement.

    This builds on previous research on questions of home, migration and belonging in the city and on-going collaborative work with artist Janetka Platun and arts-based refugee charity Stories & Supper.

    She has recently been awarded a British Academy/Wolfson fellowship (2023-2026) to develop a collaborative and creative project on ‘Home-city Spaces of Care: Networks of Solidarity and Belonging for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in London’.

    Current and previous research projects include:

    Floodgates (with Janetka Platun): This collaborative art/geography project focuses on the Thames Barrier, a retractable barrier system designed to prevent the North Sea flooding London which is located in a part of the city steeped in colonial and maritime history. Through the collection and study of found materials on the river's foreshore, alongside sound recording and research into the area’s social and ecological pasts and presents, the project looks at this barrier’s position as both a gateway into the city and out to sea, a borderland: a liminal space of possibility - and a space of exclusion, neglect and decay.  

    Digital Connections in Pandemic Times (with Stories & Supper): Collaborative project that explored experiences of Covid_19 among refugee and asylum seeker participants, and the role of digital arts-based practices in potentially mitigating some of its negative impacts.

    Recent research includes home-city-street, a project (with Alison Blunt and Casper Laing Ebbensgaard) that explored home in the wider context of the neighbourhood, street and the city; a project (with Maria Villares-Varela, University of Southampton) on Migration, Religion and Entrepreneurship (funded by a BA/Leverhulme grant); and a public engagement project on creative storytelling, food and welcome among refugees and local residents in Waltham Forest, (funded by QMUL’s Centre for Public Engagement) and Together/Apart project with Stories & Supper and Phosphoros Theatre.

    Research clusters and groups

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I am currently co-supervising one PhD student (based at Queen Mary University of London): 

    Jade Hunter ‘Home, migration and belonging on a suburban estate’ (co-supervise with Alison Blunt, QMUL in partnership with Eastside Community Heritage)

    and five PhD students based at Birkbeck: 

    Shonet Hockley (PT) Lxs Ruidosxs Guerrerxs: Latin American hip-hop feminists and queers, at home and in the diaspora – representing difference and forging alliance'(joint principal supervisor with Luciana Martins).

    Shu Cean Chua (2021-) 'An InQueery into the Malaysian Chinese Diaspora' (joint principal supervisor with Rosie Cox)

    Sabrina Bowen (2022-) 'An untapped resource? Exploring the intergenerational roles of the UK-based Caribbean diaspora in the development of their homeland' (funded by Birkbeck Diversity100 studentship) (joint principal supervisor with William Ackah)

    Lily Taylor (2022-)‘Weird homemaking: precarious geographies of home in contemporary British storytelling.’  (funded by CHASE DTP2 Doctoral Studentship) (joint principal supervisor with Caroline Edwards)

    Haydar Allami (2022-) 'The Post-Migration Experience of Feyli Community in The United Kingdom: Migration, Integration and Transnational Networks' (joint principal supervisor with Ben Gidley).

    I previously supervised this PhD student to completion:

    Shabna Begum (2018-2021) ‘Stay and Fight: How a Bengali squatters movement claimed 'home' and belonging in the East End of London, in the 1970s’ (funded by College Studentship, QMUL (co-supervised with Kavita Datta and Alastair Owens, QMUL)

    I am also supervising 7 MA/MSc students on the MA in Social and Cultural Geography, the International Development and Social Anthropology, and the Children, Youth and International Development Programmes. 

    I would be interested in supervising students with interests in the following areas:

    • Urban diversity and encounters;
    • Migration, diaspora and identity formation;Homemaking and displacement;
    • Migration and urban change;
    • Creative methodologies and migration;
    • Art/creative practice and knowledge creation.

    Current doctoral researchers




    Globalisation in the Contemporary World (convenor)

    Introduction to Human Geography (lecturer)

    Methods, Analysis and Techniques (lecturer)

    Dissertation and Literature Review (convenor)



    Research Methods (dissertation supervisor)

    Teaching modules

    • Race, Environment and International Development (Level 7) (FDDV016S7)
    • Methods, Analysis and Techniques (GGPH056S5)
    • Globalization in the Contemporary World (GGPH065S6)
    • Humans and the Environment (GGPH072S4)
    • Borders, Migration and Development (SSGE124S5)
    • Urban Sustainability (SSGE126S7)
  • Publications




    Book Section


    • Cohen, R. and Sheringham, Olivia (2008) Introduction: Islands and identities. Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies 17 (1), pp. 1-5. University of Toronto Press. ISSN 1044-2057.