Sarah Hughes

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I welcome PhD students working on issues of forced migration, resistance and citizenship.

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Personal profile


I am a Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow in Human Geography. Prior to this position I held an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (2018-2019) and Political Geography Teaching Fellowship (2017-2018) in the Geography Department at Durham University. I am a Political Geographer, working on issues of asylum politics, resistance, citizenship and the politics of epistemology within the academy. My work to date has coalesced around three main themes: 

1. Geographies of resistance.

I am interested in how resistance is conceptualized within Geography. My work has  explored how understandings of resistance within Geography are often characterised by a predetermination of form that particular actions or actors must assume to constitute resistance. Asking what we risk ignoring if we only focus on predetermined, recognisable resistant forms, my work seeks to revisit some of the fundamental assumptions (of intention, linearity and opposition) that underpin accounts of resistance. What are the logics that have come to govern how resistance is framed? What are the implications of decentering these logics for how Geographers engage with resistance? How/can Geographers engage with resistance in ‘its’ emergence?

2. Geographies of forced migration.

I have a longstanding interest in how systems of asylum governance are lived, experienced and resisted. To this end, I work with third sector organisations in the UK who, in different ways, support forced migrants in detention centres, dispersal accommodation and those who recently have been granted leave to remain. My more recent work moves to explore the geographies of forced migration in the European Union. There are three stands to my work in this area: spatiality, subjectivity and research ‘access’.

  • Spatiality: My work here engages with current debates in carceral geography – understanding the geographies of confinement beyond traditional sites. I am interested in what new perspectives does a framing of the multiple spaces of an asylum system as immanent bring? What are the implications of this for conducting research in/on systems of immigration control?
  • Subjectivitiy: As part of this focus on spatiality, I contribute to debates within migration studies on how we think about the politics of classification in systems of asylum governance. How does a focus upon (in)coherent subjects of asylum challenge and extend understandings of resistance in these multiple spaces? What are the implications of this for theorisations of citizenship? I am interested here in what an attention to space, and the Geographies of new materialism can bring to how we think about citizenship.
  • Research ‘Access’: I am interested in the politics and ethics of research ‘access’ in the multiple spaces of asylum systems. What are the ethics of research ‘access’ to publicly funded institutions? To this end, I am working on a collaborative project (2019- ) with colleagues across the UK & US on the use of Freedom of Information Requests to research immigration detention. 

3. Geographies of knowledge production.

My focus upon the geographies of knowledge production, has included pursuing questions around resistance, knowledge production and what constitutes ‘the political’ through the following projects:

  • Obfuscated democracy (2018 – ongoing) I am working on an interdisciplinary project with Philip Garnett (York University) focussing upon the relationship between whistle-blowers, FOIA and knowledge production within the academy. This has included research on the materials leaked by Chelsea Manning, and the response of the academy for, whilst in the public arena these materials have yet to be declassified, and therefore raise important ethical and political questions on the relationship between ‘the’ state, academy and knowledge curation in ostensibly liberal democracies.
  • Countermapping Detention (2018 – ongoing) I am currently a Research Assistant working on thisproject at Durham University (with Lauren Martin). This work includes the submission of FOIA requests in response to the US government’s consultation on archiving records (including of assault claims) within detention centres. As part of this work, I have submitted written evidence to National Archive and Records Administration (NARA) in the US government, concerning the pending decision to stop archiving this data. I have worked with Geoff Boyce (University of Arizona) to collate data from Department of Homeland Security 1-213 reports on ‘deportable or inadmissible aliens’
  •  Affect and the politics of memory (2014-2016): I took part in collective research on affect and the politics of memory at the ten-year anniversary of the London bombings (with Angharad Closs Stephens, Vanessa Schofield and Shanti Sumartojo). Here we explored alternative ways of encountering and producing knowledge in relation to this event.



Journal Articles

Hughes, S M. (2021) (In)coherent subjects? The politics of conceptualising resistance in the UK asylum system. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space. Online first

Hughes, S M. (2021) Mobile resistances: Tracing a genealogy of dissent. Response to Gopal, Priyamvada. Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent. Dialogues in Human Geography. Online First:

Hughes, S M. (2021) "Wait for a permanent contract" The temporal politics of (in)fertility as an Early Career Researcher. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space. Online first: 

Hughes, S M. (2020) On Resistance within Human Geography. Progress in Human Geography. 44 (6): 1141-1160.

Garnett, P and Hughes, S. M. (2019).Obfuscated Democracy? Chelsea Manning and the politics of knowledge curation. Political Geography. 68: 23-33

Maestri, G and Hughes, S. M. (2017) Guest Editor’s Introduction to Special Issue. Contested Spaces of Citizenship: Camps, Borders and Urban Encounters. Citizenship Studies 21 (6): 625-639

Hughes, S. M. and Forman, P. (2017) A Material Politics of Citizenship: The potential of circulating materials from UK Immigration Removal Centres. Citizenship Studies 21 (6): 675-692

Closs Stephens, A, Hughes, S. M., Schofield, V. & Sumartojo, S. (2017) Atmospheric Memories: Affect and minor politics at the ten-year anniversary of the London bombings. Emotion, Space and Society. 23:44-51.

Hughes, S. M. (2016) Beyond intentionality: exploring creativity and resistance within a UK Immigration Removal Centre. Citizenship Studies. 20:427-443.


Book Chapters

Hughes, S M. and Garnett P. (2020) Researching the emergent technologies of state control: The court-martial of Chelsea Manning. In de Goede, M., Palister-Wilkins, P and Bosma, E (eds) Routledge Method’s textbook: Secrecy and Methodology in Critical Security Research. Routledge: London.

Garnett, P and Hughes, S M. (2020) Obfuscated democracy? Chelsea Manning and the politics of democratic knowledge curation. In Macnish, K and Galliott, J’s (eds) Big Data and the Democratic Process. Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh

 Hughes, S, M. (2019) Resistance. In Kobayashi, A and Tyner, J (eds) International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography. Elsevier. London.


Book Reviews

Hughes, S. M. (2019) Book Review “After the flight: The Dynamics of Refugee Settlement and Integration. Edited by Poteet, M. and Nourpanah, S. Cambridge Publishers” Journal of Refugee Studies. 32 (1): 169–171.

Hughes, S. M. (2018) “Challenging Immigration Detention” edited by Michael J. Flynn and Matthew B. Flynn. (Edward Elgar, 2017). Border Criminologies. criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2018/05/book-review

Hughes, S. M. (2017) “Detaining the Immigrant Other: Global and Transnational Issues.” Edited by Rich Furman, Douglas Epps and Greg Lamphear, (Oxford University Press, 2016) Carceral Geography Working Group of the RGS with IBG. Available at:

Hughes, S. M. (2016) “Nothing Personal?: Geographies of Governing and Activism in the British Asylum System” by Nick Gill (John Wiley & Sons, 2016). Border Criminologies. Available at:


Public Commentaries 

Hughes, S M. (2021) Guest pannelist for International Women's Day [UCU Podcast] 

Hughes, S. M and Garnett, P. (2018) Obfuscated democracy? Chelsea Manning, and the challenges of working with (de)classified materials. Society and Space [Online]. Available at:

Hughes, S. M (2016) Border Control: Reflections on Artwork in Spaces of Incarceration. Border Criminologies. Available at:

Hughes, S. M (2016) “I don’t know you and you don’t know me… but we are listening”: Reflections on a community exchange project. Music in Detention. Available at:

 Hughes, S. M (2016) Creativity and Resistance within UK Immigration Removal Centres. Border Criminologies. Available at:



This academic year (2021-2022), I am teaching on the following modules:

  • KE3004: Transition to University
  • KE4001: Introduction to Human Geography
  • KE5005: Approaches to Research in Human Geography (Module Convener)
  • KE5006: P/political Geographies
  • KE5008: Economic Geography
  • KE6024: Critical Urban Geography
  • KE7010: Housing and Health



2021. British Academy Small Grant (£9,388.50)

2018. NINEDTP ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (£43218)

2017. Overseas Institutional Visit with Prof. Alison Mountz (ESRC, £3250)

2016. Postgraduate Conference Funding (Durham Geography, £500)

2014. Trevelyan College Research Travel Bursary (£500)

2013. ESRC 1+3 Research Funding (£72754)

2009. Vice Chancellor's Award for Academic Excellence (£2000)


Education/Academic qualification

Geography, PhD, Durham University

Award Date: 8 Feb 2018

Research Methods, MA, Durham University

Award Date: 30 Sep 2014

Geography, BA (Hons), Durham University

Award Date: 31 Jul 2011


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