Making Space for Solidarity
: Challenging Hegemonic Reproduction in Organisations Working with Asylum Seekers and Refugees

  • Otto Wolf

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Organisations working with asylum seekers and refugees will often utilise the term solidarity when discussing the work they do. This thesis critically evaluates the production and impact of this solidarity. Carried out by an activist-researcher, this PhD research analyses data collected from 15 in-depth, qualitative interviews with individuals working in different organisations that support asylum seekers and refugees, this project evaluates how organisations can work to produce genuine, transformative solidarity.
This PhD research deepens the concept of solidarity by examining the material practices of organisations that effectively challenge the dominant social structures in society. Such a challenge to the hegemonic power structures is argued to be an essential characteristic of genuine solidarity. Alongside this, however, moments in which organisations fail to work in solidarity as a result of carrying out actions which reinforce preexisting hierarchies are also evidenced. This project provides a new understanding of solidarity by showing how it involves actively working to dismantle oppressive systems rather than simply expressing abstract support or sympathy. Further, by examining both sides of organisational practice, it provides a comprehensive understanding of the pressures placed on organisations that attempt to restrain non-hegemonic action. By analysing these practices in-depth, the project offers nuanced insights into the challenges that organisations face when challenging dominant power structures. Finally, evidence is provided to understand how organisations can facilitate the production of solidarity through creating material and emotional spaces, analysed through the framework of affect, that allow individuals to have a sustained change in perspective in their relationship to political and social movements relating to asylum seekers and refugees.
Through these findings, this thesis presents a new critical understanding of the complexities of solidarity, its production, impact and limitations. Whilst this project is particularly useful for organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers, conceptual understanding of solidarity and discussions around the production of solidarity have the potential to be useful and impactful across a range of social movements which aim to produce transformative progressive change.
Date of Award11 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorJulia Brown (Supervisor), Charles Leddy-Owen (Supervisor) & Diana Martin (Supervisor)

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