Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS Vulnerability Seminar: Narratives of Vulnerability

07 February 2018, 5:00 pm–6:00 pm

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Rethinking stories about the figure of the refugee in Europe

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Institute of Advanced Studies


IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

The IAS Vulnerability Seminar Series is delighted to welcome Kate Smith from the University of Huddersfield for this talk. The role of vulnerability in relation to mechanisms of governance and social welfare practices has received growing interest, but how 'vulnerability' is operationalised in asylum policy is less well understood. This paper explores narratives of vulnerability in relation to the figure of the refugee in Europe.

Taking a narrative approach to stories told about refugees, I put forward the argument that access to asylum has gradually moved away from spontaneous asylum seeking to more controlled routes. This transition has increasingly drawn on the notion of vulnerability to highlight distinctions between people who deserve protection and those who do not. In particular, this paper focuses on the ways in which the UK Syrian Vulnerable Person's Resettlement Programme is underpinned by stories of 'the vulnerable' and exemplifies the latest hierarchy of rights and entitlements to emerge in relation to the figure of the refugee. I also offer insights into some of the ways in which asylum policies create the conditions where vulnerabilities are generated and produced. As such, this paper brings a critical perspective to the state increasingly narrowing the protection space for refugees and redefining 'the vulnerable' as an essential marker of asylum policy.


Kate Smith is a Research Fellow (Asylum and Migration) at the University of Huddersfield, UK. She was awarded an Economic and Social Research Council funded scholarship in 2009 to explore the narratives of women refugees and her PhD is entitled "Challenging dominant narratives: Stories of women seeking asylum". Kate has worked on academic and non-academic research with women and children. She is interested in understanding the gendered lives of people who migrate and the narratives that shape their stories. Kate has presented widely and is the author of a number of publications that explore asylum support, immigration detention, theories and practices of resistance, and narrative methodologies. She has a new co-edited book, Opportunities and Challenges for Feminist Narrative Research (Palgrave Macmillan) published August 2017. Her recent work has centred on concepts of vulnerability in relation to people who seek asylum and how access to asylum has gradually moved away from spontaneous asylum seeking to more controlled routes.

This seminar will be followed by a wine reception.

Please register here.