Conversations with IRiS

Conversations with Iris is a podcast/zoomcast series on migration, displacement and (im)mobility produced by the Institute for Research into Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham.

In our Conversations, we dialogue with researchers, teachers, writers, migrants, refugees, activists, community organisers, artists and policymakers on issues related to migration and diversity in the (post-) Covid world. The series is edited and produced by Stefano Piemontese and Nando Sigona in partnership with Marie Skłodowska-Curie’s project RETRY 

Transnational politics and ‘The Ethics of Exile’

Dr Catherine Craven, Research Fellow on the MIGZEN project, speaks to Ashwini Vasanthakumar, Associate Professor at Queen’s University, Canada, about her recently published book The Ethics of Exile: A Political Theory of Diaspora, which explores the normative and political agency of exiles. In their conversation, Ashwini and Catherine discuss the importance of thinking of migrants and members of exile communities as powerful actors in international politics.

Climate diplomacy and international migration

To mark 2021 International Migrants Day, we are releasing a new episode of Conversations with IRiS (#CWI29) dedicated to understanding the policy encounter between climate change and international migration, how it began, who was involved and where it is heading. Professor Nando Sigona, Director of IRiS, speaks with Dr Sarah Louise Nash, author of 'Negotiating Migration in the Context of Climate Change', published by Bristol University Press.

Indigenous migration in Mexico, Guatemala and the USA

In this conversation, Dr Jennifer Allsopp talks to Dr Walter G. Flores and Prof Valentina Glockner, Co-Investigators on the GCRF funded "Life Facing Deportation" project, about recent trends in indigenous migration, focusing on Guatemala, Mexico and the US. Despite their heterogeneity, indigenous people on the move often face a range of specific vulnerabilities, including gender-based violence, human trafficking, racism and language barriers that undermine their rights and due process.

Tech at the border 

Local and international travel is changing radically as concerns about terrorism and migration increase. Security agencies require access to travellers’ information before they leave their homes, compulsory identification of travellers now includes the collection of fingerprints and facial images, and secret watchlists, dossiers and profiles are being developed. Prof Nando Sigona talks to Millie Graham Wood of Privacy International to learn about the risks of digital bordering for migrants and refugees.

Visual methodologies in migration studies

Dr Stefano Piemontese, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at IRiS, speaks with Dr Karolina Nikielska-Sekula from Jagiellonian University (Krakow) and Dr Amandine Desille from the University of Bordeaux about their co-edited book Visual Methodology in Migration Studies. New Possibilities, Theoretical Implications, and Ethical Questions (Springer IMISCOE Research series).

Citizenship and belonging: Generation 2.0 in Greece

While born and raised in Greece, children of African migrants had, until recently, no access to citizenship. Even today, many still have no way of becoming citizens, while narrow and racialised understandings of Greekness further curtail their sense of belonging. In this conversation, Dr Anna Papoutsi talks to Generation 2.0 for Rights, Equality & Diversity member Natani Petros about identity and belonging among second-generation individuals of African descent in Athens (Greece).

Migration governance beyond the state 

In this episode, Prof Nando Sigona talks with Professor Andrew Geddes, Director of the Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute, about his recent book Governing migration beyond the State (Oxford University Press). The conversation explores the role of regional actors in migration governance and how responses to mobility are negotiated across different national, international and regional actors, including the private sector.

Previous conversations

The experience of LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum in the UK at the time of Covid-19

Laurie Hartley, Asylum Seeker Support Worker at Rainbow Migration (previously known as UKLGIG), speaks to IRiS academic Dawn River about the experiences of LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum in the UK.

This recording has been published during Pride month to highlight the specific challenges facing LGBTQI+ asylum seekers.


Asylum under threat: The New Plan for Immigration in the UK

IRiS Director Professor Nando Sigona is joined by Zoe Gardner, Policy Advisor with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) to discuss the UK’s new plan for immigration. This episode of Conversations with IRiS was released to mark Refugee Week 2021.


Racism in healthcare

Sarah Hamed, dentist and PhD researcher at the Department of Sociology at Uppsala University and Dr Suruchi Thapar-Bjorkert, docent and senior researcher at the Department of Government at Uppsala, discuss with Professor Jenny Phillimore from IRiS on findings from an interdisciplinary project looking at understanding racism and healthcare.


The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on LGBTI people in Europe and Central Asia

ILGA-Europe staff Akram Kubanychbekov and Cianán Russell speak with Dawn River from IRiS.  Their research reveals there have been significant impacts on the health, socioeconomic security, and physical security of LGBTIQ individuals, as well as impacts on the function and funding of LGBTIQ organisations.


Rethinking integration after Brexit (Part 2)

Here the second part of Nando Sigona’s interview with Adrian Favell on Brexit, free movement and the return to ‘integration’.


Political demography, Brexit and the borders of membership

How has Brexit redrawn the boundaries of membership in the UK? IRiS Director Nando Sigona talks to Professor Adrian Favell about the ESRC-funded Northern Exposure project on the impact of Brexit on northern towns and small cities, and how the end of freedom of movement doesn’t mean less immigration, but immigration with less rights and protections. 

Adrian Favell is Professor of Sociology and Social Theory at the University of Leeds and chercheur associé of the Centre for European Studies at Sciences Po, Paris. He is also a Professorial Academic Associate of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures and serves as an Associate Editor of Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies and on the editorial committee of Journal of Common Market Studies.


Bolsonaro, Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter: the politics of lockdown in Brazil

Dr Andrea Poleto Oltramari (Visiting Fellow at IRiS) and Dr Josiane Silva de Oliveira discuss the racialised and gendered effects of Covid-19 in Brazil. The Conversation was recorded at the end of June 2020.  The conversation is spoken in Portuguese with English subtitles.


Migrant caravans in Central America: Violence, borders and Covid-19

IRiS researcher Dr Marisol Reyes talks to Brenda Ochoa, Director of the NGO Human Rights Centre Fray Matias de Cordova AC, on the effects of border closure at the Guatemala and Mexico border on Central American migrant caravans in the context of Covid-19 public health crisis.

The conversation “Caravans migrantes: violencia, fronteras y Covid-19” is in Spanish with English & Spanish subtitles.

Racism, migration and the US election 

Jenny Phillimore talks to Chip Gallagher (LaSalle University, US) about immigration and racism and how they are shaping voting behaviours in the US Election as well as the prospects for change with the election of a Biden/Harris-led government.  Chip Gallagher is Professor of Sociology at LaSalle University, US. His research focuses on social inequality, race relations, whiteness and immigration, and he has published over 50 articles, reviews and books on these topics. As a Fulbright Research Scholar at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. in 2016-17, Gallagher researched attitudes on immigration and Brexit.

Talking about migration in the age of #fakenews (Part 2) 

Here is the second part of Nando Sigona’s interview with professor Cecilia Menjivar, 113th President-Elect of the American Sociological Association on #migration#Covid19, the Trump administration and the fragility of migrant lives. It concludes with a reflection on the role of sociologists in times of #fakenews and #post-truth.

Trump, Covid-19 and the fragility of migrant lives 

Below is the first part of a dialogue between Prof Nando Sigona, Director of IRiS, and Cecilia Menjívar, Professor of Sociology at UCLA and President-Elect of the American Sociological Association- ASA on the impact of the #Trump administration and #Covid-19 on migrant lives.

Everyday racism and community organising

IRiS Researcher, Laurence Lessard-Phillips, talks to Maureen Lewis, Chief Officer of Walsall Black Sisters Collective and Advisory Board member of Walsall for All.  They discuss Maureen’s important work, the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of learning from our collective history.

Displaced SGBV survivors and COVID-19

Sandra Pertek, IRiS Researcher, speaks to Pip McKnight of Refugee Women Connect and Hana Leshaj, asylum seeker based in Liverpool and member of Refugee Women Connect Advocacy Group, about the deteriorating reality post COVID-19 for migrants and asylum seekers in the UK, at the time of easing lockdown restrictions.

Care workers, our heroes: a double edged sword

IRiS Researchers, Annavittoria Sarli and Natasha Nicholls talk to Nina Sahraoui from the Paris Centre for Sociological and Political Research (CNRS) and Sabrina Marchetti from the University Ca’ Foscari in Venice, specialists in the intersection of gender and migration. 

The systematic exploitation of migrant agriculture workers in southern Italy

IRiS Researcher, Annavittoria Sarli talks to Giuseppe Pugliese, an activist at SOS Rosarno, a civil society organisation that fights against the exploitation of agricultural workers, mostly migrants, in Italy. 

The conversation is in Italian with English subtitles. 

Community Sponsorship under lockdown 

Professor Jenny Phillimore talks to Ruth Forecast and Sharon Baker from the Malvern Welcomes Community Sponsorship Group. They discuss the challenges that refugee families and volunteers have faced in the time of Covid-19, including getting to grips with new technologies, supporting children with school work and enabling families to understand the regular Government updates and information. Find out more about the IRiS Community Sponsorship Scheme evaluation research in the UK.  

Manus Island is the soul of the system: Lyndsey Stonebridge talks to Omid Tofighian 

In 2017, the Iranian-Kurdish writer, Behrouz Boochani, published an extraordinary book, No Friend But the Mountains which documented his life imprisoned in the Australian-run immigration detention centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. Combining political theory, myth, poetry, memoir, the book rises to the challenge of resisting oppression by creating a new literary form of knowledge. Written using phone text messaging, the text was also a work of interdisciplinary translation, collaboration, and imagination. 

In this episode Lyndsey Stonebridge talks with the political philosopher, Omid Tofighian, Boochani’s translator and collaborator. They examine how contemporary migration regimes can be described as an interlocking ‘Kyriarchal’ systems of domination and explore how creative writing can lead to new understandings of injustice and human rights. This is the reference to Itamar’s letter about Boochani mentioned in the video.  

The end of the “age of migration”? Nando Sigona in conversation with Alan Gamlen

In this episode, IRiS Director Professor Nando Sigona talks to Dr Alan Gamlen, Associate Professor of Geography at Monash University, Australia, founding editor-in-chief of the journal Migration Studies (OUP) and co-editor of the “Global Migration and Social Change” book series for Bristol University Press. Inspired by Alan Gamlen’s recent COMPAS Working Paper on migration and the pandemic, this conversation speculates on the impact of the pandemic on migration flows and governance and what we can expect for the future. 

The impact of Covid-19 on migrant women in the UK.  Dawn River talks to Rubina Jasan

Dawn River, academic at IRiS talks to Dr Rubina Jasani, Programme Director for Global Health at The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute in Manchester. Rubina has an interest in exploring people’s lived experience of violence, displacement and identities; gender and sexuality; and suffering and healing. As a founding member of ‘No Recourse! Peer Research Project’ in partnership with WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together, Manchester) and serving on the Board of Directors of Safety4Sisters, Rubina has been committed, through the co-creation of knowledge, to challenging stereotypes, raising awareness and campaigning for fundamental rights for refugees and asylum seekers. Informed by her academic and political work and, in her own words, ‘the experience of being a brown Indian woman’, Rubina speaks about the impact Covid-19 is having on the lives of activists and refugee and migrant women in the UK. 

Lyndsey Stonebridge in conversation talks to Daniel Trilling

In this episode of Conversations with Iris, Lyndsey Stonebridge, Professor of Humanities and Human Rights at the University of Birmingham, talks to Daniel Trilling, former editor of the New Humanist, journalist and author of Lights in the Distance. Exile and Refuge at the Borders of Europe (2018) and Bloody Nasty People. The Rise of Britain’s Far Right (2012).

Melash Zeleke talks to Natasha Nicholls and Annavittoria Sarli (IRiS)

Melash Zeleke is originally from Ethiopia and is a not sighted asylum seeker currently living in a reception centre in Rome, Italy. He tells Natasha Nicholls and Annavittoria Sarli (IRiS) about his story and his life.  

I am Espoir. Espoir means hope: Espoir Njei in conversation with Dawn River

This conversation between Espoir Njei and Dawn River took place one month into the coronavirus lockdown. They built a friendship through their shared commitment to supporting LGBTIQ migrants fleeing persecution. Espoir is a lesbian asylum seeker from the Cameroon currently in lockdown in Birmingham and Dawn is a queer academic at the University of Birmingham currently in lockdown in Germany. 

Learning together at the time of Covid: Lyndsey Stonebridge talks to Les Back (Part 2)

In the follow up to our first Conversation, Lyndsey Stonebridge (IRiS) talks to Les Back (Goldsmiths, University of London) about the future of learning and universities.

The migrant city at the time of Covid-19: Lyndsey Stonebridge talks to Les Back (Part 1)

The first conversation is between our colleague Lyndsey Stonebridge, professor of humanities and human rights at the University of Birmingham, and Les Back, professor of sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and recently co-author of Migrant City (Routledge 2018).