COVID-19 Seminar Series

Solidarity in Pandemic Times: Asylum Seekers in Forced Accommodation

  • Venue: Zoom video conference platform
  • Start: Mon, 27 Jul 2020 13:00:00 BST
  • End: Mon, 27 Jul 2020 14:30:00 BST

Solidarity in Pandemic Times: Asylum Seekers in Forced Accommodation During COVID-19 

Dr Kathryn Cassidy, Associate Professor of Human Geography, Northumbria University in conjunction with the Fuse Complex Systems and Health Inequalities research programmes.

Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have relied upon physical distancing policies in everyday life and have been underpinned by assumptions of people living in single-family dwellings in which they can 'safely' confine themselves but also that most people are able to exert some level of choice over their housing situation. There have been important interventions in challenging the assumed ‘safety’ of the home as a space of confinement based on existing literature on domestic violence,1,2,3 however less attention has been paid to the impacts on those who are living in forced accommodation4, such as the ‘no choice’ system of housing for asylum seekers made destitute by the UK’s internalised bordering regime5.

In this presentation, Dr Kathryn Cassidy will analyse the impacts of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on asylum seekers in forced accommodation and the ways in which (in the absence/suspension of existing support structures and organisations) they, alongside members of their local communities, have attempted to address these challenges.

Kathryn Cassidy presentation July 2020

In doing so, she will respond to a call from anarchist geographers to read for mutuality6. Kropotkin identified ‘everyday co-operation as a powerful counter-narrative to orthodox accounts of history that documented only the powerful and their conflicts’6. For Springer7, reading for mutuality during the COVID-19 pandemic allows us to ‘consider this strange moment of uncertainty as one of possibility and hope’. The ‘resurgence of reciprocity’ we have witnessed during the pandemic marks a return to mutual aid that has been undermined by neoliberalisation7,8. By paying attention to ‘the entwinement of selfhood and otherness in multiple spaces and times’6, Dr Cassidy will show how mutuality during the pandemic as a culture of solidarity can also be uneven and contested9. The research draws upon participant observation and interviews with members of a forum based on Tyneside, who have been campaigning to improve housing conditions for asylum seekers since 201510.


Dr Kathryn Cassidy is a feminist political geographer, whose research explores the dis/orders of contemporary bordering processes and practices. She is currently Associate Professor of Human Geography at Northumbria University, where she moved in 2013 from Queen Mary, University of London. From October 2019 to August 2021, she is on research leave funded by the Leverhulme Trust, working on a project entitled ‘Dis/b/ordering: disrupting everyday welfare bordering in the UK’.


  1. Goldsack, L. (1999) ‘Women and domestic violence’ in Ideal homes?: Social change and domestic life, pp.121.
  2. Wardhaugh, J. (1999) The unaccommodated woman: Home, homelessness and identity. The Sociological Review 47(1): 91-109.
  3. Warrington, M, (2001) ‘‘I must get out’: the geographies of domestic violence.’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 26(3): 365-382
  4. Bernadot, M. (2005) Déplacer et Loger Les Indésirables, Sociologie du Logement Contraint, Recueil Alexandries [Accessed 2/7/20].
  5. Yuval-Davis, N, Wemyss, G and Cassidy, K. (2019) Bordering (Cambridge: Polity Press).
  6. Ince, A. and Bryant, H. (2019) Reading hospitality mutually. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space37(2): 216-235.
  7. Springer, S. (2020) Caring geographies: The COVID-19 interregnum and a return to mutual aid. Dialogues in Human Geography [online first]: 1-4.
  8. Springer, S. (2017) Property is the mother of famine: on dispossession, wages, and the threat of hunger. Political Geography 62: 201–203
  9. Kelliher, D. (2017) Constructing a culture of solidarity: London and the British coalfields in the long 1970s. Antipode49(1): 106-124.
  10. Cassidy, K. (2020) Resisting austerity and hyper-precarisation: struggles for housing justice for asylum seekers on Tyneside. Radical Housing Journal 2(1): 93-117.

The views expressed in the seminars are exclusively those of the presenter(s).


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