School of Media, Communication and Sociology

Migration, Citizenship, and Social Movements

Key areas of inquiry, questions, topics

When people use the word society, implicitly they usually have in mind a ‘national’ society, e.g. British society. But the boundaries of societies are much more fluid than terms of that sort imply, and debates on immigration and citizenship are therefore often contentious. We have well-established research programmes that seek to increase understanding of the ways people cross social boundaries, achieve membership (e.g. as new immigrants), define their position in multiple societies, and (especially for natives) build solidarity with people in minority groups. As a deeply multi-cultural city with large populations of established and recent immigrants, Leicester is particularly well placed for research on these issues.

Another core defining feature of societies is the way their members work together to achieve collective aims.  Social movements are an important component of democratic social life; those movements are also then important for efforts to achieve democratic gains (i.e., in societies where democracy is underdeveloped).   The cluster is interested in the various and creative ways digital technologies are mobilized to create (online) social movements, campaigns and forms of activism. For example, our members have researched the ways digital technologies and social media platforms have been used to challenge rape culture, sexual violence and misogyny, including the #MeToo movement.  

Some of the topics addressed by members of this cluster are: 

  • the consequences of naturalization and the citizenship test on migrants
  • how getting older affects people’s attitudes about immigration
  • everyday life inside refugee camps, detention centres and housing squats looking into the uses of ICTs by (forced) migrants in Greece and the role of self- organised groups as communication proxies to them
  • social movements for the rights of migrants and their strategies of protest
  • the changing boundaries between charity action and protest
  • the 'Refugee Welcome' movement
  • super-diverse communities’ experience in local history museums
  • Ethnic Identity Formation of Second Generation Immigrants
  • Migration and simulation 
  • Feminist approaches to PSHE and RSE lessons, delivered to Secondary school students. This includes tailored sessions around digital consent, where they learn laws about what content is (il)legal to post or share. 
  • Developing digital literacy sessions to improve efficacy and safety of those engaged in digital activism. 
  • Project on ‘digital intimacies’ – namely the experiences of young people and how they forge connections, relationships and friendships via digital technologies.  

Example current projects

The Frames of Altruistic Action

Research team: Pierre Monforte (PI), Estelle D'Halluin (Université de Nantes, Co-I), Gaja Maestri (University of Leicester, PDRA), Elsa Rambaud (Université de Nantes, PDRA)

Duration: January 2017 - December 2019

Funder: Economic and Social Research Council (ES/N015274/1), £410K


This project aims to question current debates on the 'migration crisis' and how ideas of hospitality, altruism, solidarity, care, or compassion are constructed and enacted. Through the focus on volunteers involved in charities and networks active in the pro-asylum sector, we aim to analyse how individuals reflect upon their engagement processes and define the practices, values and ethos that relate to their collective action. The project is based on a comparative approach and on qualitative research methods: we will analyse volunteers’ reflections about their engagement in two contrasted settings (France and the United Kingdom).

Athina Karatzogianni: The Twin Peaks of the UCU Dispute: Existential Surrealism on the Pension Picket Line’. Funded by the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities. The project focuses on the UK University pension dispute and combines Torsten Geelan’s expertise in the relationship between trade unions and digital media with the expertise of Athina Karatzogianni (digital activism).

Staff in this cluster

PhD students 

  • Nerina Boursinou
  • Charlotte Barratt
  • Ashwath Islampure
  • Hatice Kayman

For more information

Contact the cluster lead, David Bartram, at 

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