ReROOT Output

Workshop London | UK Housing and Non-Voluntary Mobilities Workshop

Workshop London | Intersections of Housing and Non-Voluntary Mobilities in the UK: Defining a Research Agenda

Brady Arts and Community Centre, 192-196 Hanbury Street, London E1 5HU
Mon 9 – Tue 10 October 2023
This workshop aimed to connect insights from research, professional practice or lived experience, to shed light on how systems and processes – some aiming to support, others to control – subject various groups of UK residents to forms of mobility over which they have limited or no choice. These mobilities are often intimately related to housing dynamics and fiscal austerity in the UK. The workshop sought to understand the state of knowledge on such non-voluntary mobilities, and the future research needed to advance it.

Non-voluntary internal mobility is implicitly linked to questions of arrival infrastructure, as it results in a range of often vulnerable individuals arriving in new and unfamiliar places, far from support networks and services, and being faced with the challenge of navigating, accessing services and becoming socially embedded in a new place. Whilst ReROOT has concentrated on international migrant arrivals, the workshop drew on the observation during fieldwork in Barking & Dagenham that forms of urban displacement affect a range of subjects, moving our understanding of mobility beyond the statist dichotomy of “migrants” and “citizens”.

In turn, this challenges us to consider how the study of arrival and arrival infrastructures and infrastructuring could be transferrable to the study of a wider range of vulnerable groups arriving in new places. The term “evictability” captures a common vulnerability to being removed from a sheltering place (Van Baar 2017; De Genova et al., 2021). Both migrants and some formal citizens can be affected by “enforced” or “unfree” mobility within the UK, whether through involuntary asylum dispersal (Darling 2016; 2022), estate regeneration, evictions (Watt 2018; 2022; Nowicki 2023) or other mechanisms such as internal displacement of individuals and families into temporary accommodation as a result of domestic violence (Bowstead 2020; 2022).

The workshop was also inspired by an emerging recognition within migration studies that common mechanisms of marginalisation exist between social groups that are conventionally studied in siloes. This recognition makes space for the emergence of new solidarities across such categories as citizen and non-citizen, migration and class (Anderson 2013; Vickers 2020). It offers potential to unite precarious citizens and immigrants in a common struggle for social justice, in the face of national governments that polarise these groups through scapegoating and discourses of deservingness.

By exploring commonalities in the experience of non-voluntary, and often structurally imposed, mobilities at the sub-national level, we hoped to reveal fresh perspectives and directions for research, policy and practice in the UK, with potential to avert the marginalization of those who find themselves moved by systems and processes beyond their control. This is particularly important as policymakers and practitioners seek to respond more effectively to a range of vulnerable arrivals in local areas and to foster inclusion and equality among residents, in a context constrained by austerity, neoliberal logics and a changing array of policy and fiscal directives.

A total of 60 people registered for the workshop, from 27 UK and international universities and a range of government and civil society organisations, including Hackney Council, the British Red Cross, Clarion Housing Group, Hackney Community Law Centre, JustLife, Praxis and Studia Africa. The workshop commenced with lunch from noon on Monday 9 October, and a headline panel highlighting different Approaches to Non-Voluntary Mobilities, featuring presentations by Paul Watt, Jonathan Darling and Janet Bowstead, who approach issues of non-voluntary mobility in distinct ways, from perspectives that roughly fit the disciplines of urban studies, migration studies and feminist studies respectively.

This was followed by a panel of three papers focused on Non-Voluntary Mobilities and Dynamics of Fiscal, Welfare and Social Housing Policy, with presentations given by Farjana Islam (Heriot Watt University), Hannah Haycox (UCL) and David Smith (Anglia Ruskin University). A third panel on Exploring Lived Experiences of Non-Voluntary (Im)mobilities, featured Anna Lindley (SOAS), Olivia Petie (Birmingham University) and Liz Hingley (Artist in Residence at the Sanctuary Programme, Kings College London).

After the first day’s academic papers, a speakers’ dinner was held at a nearby restaurant, Mumbai Square, enabling speakers to have longer conversations and make productive connections.

The second day of the workshop featured a final panel of three speakers who reflected on Living and Working with Non-Voluntary Mobilities. The panel included Suzanne Check Ambith and Hafiz Suleman, members of a migrant youth group run by civil society organisation Praxis, Kevin Long, a housing solicitor working for Hackney Community Law Centre, and Signe Gosmann, a researcher working for JustLife, a charity focused on vulnerable people in emergency and temporary accommodation in the UK. The final session was an interactive workshop where participants proposed ambitions for advancing the research agenda, and then voted on which ideas they found the most compelling. The ideas with the top three scores were discussed in groups of participants who identified a particular interest in each. One idea was a proposed network to advance research and collaboration. Another entailed a three-step project to 1) quantify the number of forced moves across different groups annually, 2) create an anthology of similar experiences across different groups from existing work, and 3) map of out-of-area moves in the homeless system drawing on data from 10 Local Authorities. A final one was more methodological, calling for more active involvement of frontline workers and immigration officers in discussions of safety and wellbeing in temporary housing. This group discussion enabled participants of like interests to interact more meaningfully and consider potential concrete steps toward each of the ambitions identified. In closing the final session, it was proposed that one of the identified ambitions – to establish a network on the subject of housing and non-voluntary mobilities – be pursued as a platform for further discussion and development of ideas for research collaborations including those discussed in the workshop.

The workshop ended with a finger lunch to facilitate final conversations and connections between participants.
This workshop was organised by Prof Susanne Wessendorf and Dr Tamlyn Monson as part of the Horizon-funded ReROOT project. It is co-hosted by the Centre for Trust Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University.
For more information, please contact:
Dr Tamlyn Monson
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, ReROOT project Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University
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