What is Sanctuary? seminars

This year the University Kent is applying for University of Sanctuary status. As part of the City of Sanctuary movement, the Universities of Sanctuary network aims to ‘make Higher Education institutions places of safety, solidarity and empowerment for people seeking sanctuary’.

To help ensure that the University’s application process is properly reflective and self-critical, the Migration and Movement Signature Research Theme is holding a series of seminars throughout the year that address the question ‘What is Sanctuary?’

Speakers from a range of disciplines, career stages and backgrounds will discuss what sanctuary means and entails. Contributions will be a mix of academic talks and reflections on lived experience.

All sessions are online. Everybody is invited to join the conversation.

 Seminars timetable 

What Is Sanctuary 1 – on 9 November – 16.00-17.00

Sheona York, Reader in Law and Clinic Solicitor (Kent Law School)

This paper will present a history of recent sanctuary movements in the US and the UK. It will show that where true sanctuary is offered it is frequently as protection against the State itself and the State’s unjust laws. The paper will conclude by considering what it can mean for a university to offer sanctuary and how the University of Kent can support people whose status in the UK is rendered precarious by current immigration laws.

Dr Julia Hope, Lecturer in Higher Education and Academic Practice (Centre for the Study of Higher Education)

Building on research funded by the Migration and Movement Signature Research Theme, this paper focuses on Syrian academics exiled in Turkey. It considers the form of professional development support that can be offered to communities of displaced academics and the connections and intercultural exchange that arise from such opportunities. The paper thus considers what sanctuary means when working remotely with people who have experienced displacement.

Thomas Tegento, Student on the MA in Physical Theatre (Department of Drama and Theatre)

Thomas has been a student at the University of Kent for 4 years and has recently completed an MA in Physical Theatre. He is a refugee and came to Kent from a care service background. He published his first book, The Seventh Neck, in 2020 and is now doing dance and movement related creative practices with community theatre companies. He is interested in what total arts, physical and movement practices can offer in building the wellbeing of communities. He will speak about the meaning of sanctuary from the perspective of his lived experience.

Click this link to join the zoom meeting

What is Sanctuary 2 on 7 December – 16.00-17.00

Dr Lucy Williams, Senior Visiting Research Fellow (School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research)

This paper will consider sanctuary in a time of ‘crisis’. East Kent, and especially Dover and Manston, are yet again in the eye of the migration storm. In this fevered atmosphere what is the role of ‘sanctuary’? Policy makers rely on closely prescribed (yet flexible) categories to sift the worthy from the unworthy but in forcing people to prove their lives fit into these categories, experience is simplified, and the person is lost. Can encouraging sanctuary in our communities and workplaces be a way to bring attention back to the individual to challenge both policy and public portrayals of migration?

Dr Rachel Gregory Fox, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow (School of English)

This paper will consider the subject of the camp as presented in Yousif M. Qasmiyeh’s Writing the Camp. While refugee camps, in some respects, represent places of apparent safety, community, and shelter, they are also contingent and precarious. The paper will consider how these two aspects of the camp call into question the possibility of its status as a place of sanctuary. Qasmiyeh’s poetry sets institutional oversight and international charitable aid within the camp alongside what Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh identifies as ‘refugee-refugee relations’. The paper considers how Qasmiyeh thus disrupts more centralised views of host-relations, hospitality and sanctuary.

Basma El-Dhouki, GCDC Doctoral Candidate (School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research)

Basma is a Palestinian refugee living and working in Lebanon. For twelve years she has been active in humanitarian and development work with refugees and asylum seekers within UNHCR, UNRWA and international NGOs in Lebanon and Syria. Her work has focused on sexual and gender based violence, child protection and general protection, prevention and response programs. Basma’s PhD focuses on “The role of Refugee-Led Organisations in providing protection and assistance for displaced communities in the Lebanon, Syria and Jordan”. The project explores the nature of refugee-led organisations, the factors conditioning their impact and interventions, and the inclusion of refugees in their own development. Basma’s talk will address the question of sanctuary from the perspective of her professional background.

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For more information on the Migration and Movement Signature Research Theme contact