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    Practices of alliance and solidarity with asylum seeking and refugee women - a case study

    Berry, Hannah (2013) Practices of alliance and solidarity with asylum seeking and refugee women - a case study. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    This thesis is the product of four years of participation in a community project created for and with women who were at different stages of seeking a legal right to reside in the UK. It presents the elements of practice and organisational ethos which, through discussion, reflection and interviews with participants, were determined as valuable ways of countering the debilitating effects of misrecognition by the state and endemic racial prejudice. It considers, too, the problems, dilemmas and tensions which arose as we sought to be effective allies across multiple lines of difference, and to produce a research account of the experience. Beginning in 2009, and spanning the change of government a year later, the ‘Arise and Shine’ project was funded through the National Empowerment Partnership (NEP), a New Labour initiative which facilitated ‘empowerment’ activities across nine English regions between 2007 and 2011. Drawing on popular education methodology, Arise and Shine aimed to work against the barrage of hurts which so often attend the asylum process, by creating space for mutual support and collective action (including awareness raising through applied theatre workshops, and giving talks in schools). The case study of the project was made possible by an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) programme enabling practice-based research on - and for - the third sector. The thesis is written from my perspective as community worker, pro-migrant activist and PhD student. It foregrounds the experiences, insights and the demands of the women for an asylum system which is not stacked against them in its decision making, or in the conditions imposed on them as they wait for the outcome of their claims. While the case study of Arise and Shine occupies centre stage, the range of networks of services and ally groups and organisations which sustained the women and aided their integration, including their own self-initiated groups, are also considered. Running through the thesis are my reflections on political, ethical and theoretical issues surfaced by the work, which I interrogate using resources from a diverse literature centred on feminist, anti-oppressive approaches, as well as activist praxis.

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