Making space for solidarity: the transformative role of shame in challenging racialised hegemony

Otto Wolf, Julia Brown, Charles Leddy‐owen, Diana Martin

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Using an affective framework, this article explores the role of shame in stimulating non-migrant citizen solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees across the UK. Combining research on shame with ongoing discussions of solidarity and influential work by Bourdieu, the productive potential of affect is discussed. This paper argues that shame is an affect capable of creating a “rupture” in an individual or organisation's habitus. This rupture is evidenced as resulting in structural change in the organisations as they reckon with actions that fall into structures of racial domination. Findings from 15 research interviews with active individuals in migrant justice organisations are analysed in relation to shame and solidarity. Data is from a wider project, utilising participatory methods alongside in-depth interviews looking to understand the work of organisations supporting asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. This paper develops the burgeoning theoretical field of affect within Geography and Sociology, arguing for shame as a useful affect in challenging implicit racial hierarchies in the process of creating transformative solidarity. Shame is an affect too often dismissed as unproductive and, as a result, its use within social movements has been significantly under-researched. This paper argues against this representation of shame and instead explores its power in challenging hegemonic social relations. As an activist researcher, this theoretical development is part of a wider desire to interrogate the nuances of solidarity, to help myself and other activists to understand its importance and formation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-115
Issue number1
Early online date20 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • affect
  • racial hierarchies
  • refugees
  • shame
  • solidarity
  • United Kingdom


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