Responding to the ‘refugee crisis’: critical geographies and the politics of support


Royal Geographical Society, London

30th August – 3rd September 2016

Call for Papers


Responding to the ‘refugee crisis’: critical geographies and the politics of support

Session Organisers: Jonathan Darling (University of Manchester) and Ryan Frazer (University of Wollongong)


The last year has seen political and popular discussions of migration dominated by a language of ‘crisis’ and emergency response. From the ongoing securitisation of the Calais freight terminal, to the production of new border walls in Europe, policies on migration over the last year have focused on extending trends of extraterritorial exclusion, political distancing, and the deferral of moral responsibility. Yet at the same time, the mass movement of refugees witnessed in Europe has raised profound questions over the desirability, and effectiveness, of these responses.

Syrian refugees strike at the platform

Syrian refugees strike at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station, Hungary, 4 September 2015. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov.

In this session, we seek to consider both how geographers may respond to the politics of refugee mobility and the fatal exclusions produced by many nation-states, and how geographers have explored the politics of support for refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants.

In particular, the session seeks to open discussion on three issues. Firstly, what forms of political and geographical closure are produced and sustained within the language of a refugee ‘crisis’? Whilst moments of apparent ‘crisis’ may illuminate the effects of long-standing exclusionary policies and politics, they can also dissipate rapidly, encourage reactionary responses, and focus attention on narrow geographies of immediate concern. Secondly, how can we understand and examine the political and ethical challenges of support and response that arise in taking the geographies of refugee mobility seriously? This means asking questions of how notions of compassion, care, empathy, and hospitality are practiced, negotiated, and represented in the field of refugee politics and reception. And thirdly, what is the role of critical Geography itself in the politics of such a ‘crisis’? How can the multiple positions of Geographers—as activists, scholars, campaigners, migrants, citizens—be employed to create alliances that promote social and spatial justice in response to the exclusionary politics of refugee mobility?

‘Real Australians Say Welcome’ campaign, 2015. Artwork by Peter Drew.

‘Real Australians Say Welcome’ campaign, 2015. Artwork by Peter Drew.

With these concerns in mind, we invite papers that address the politics of responding to refugee mobility at a variety of scales and locations—from transnational mobility regimes, to everyday spaces of support and service provision. We welcome papers on any aspect of this broad area, but papers way wish to consider:

  • The political and ethical negotiations of responding to ‘crisis’
  • Spaces and politics of care and support for forced migrants
  • Refugee resettlement at various scales
  • The role of critical Geography in political responses to the refugee ‘crisis’
  • Profitability, the migration ‘industry’ and its application to refugees
  • Community responses to refugee mobility


Please email proposals (name, affiliation, paper title and 250 word abstract) or queries to Jonathan Darling ( and Ryan Frazer ( The deadline for Abstracts is 12th February 2016. The format of the session will be the presentation of 4-5 selected papers each lasting 20 minutes.

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