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Title: 'They don't yet know that life is going to be hell' : tracing distress through the UK asylum process
Author: Beesley, Anna Ruth
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 4793
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2018
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As immigration has become a central and divisive topic in the political discourse of the UK and beyond, this thesis offers a timely portrayal of the lived experiences of those who are involved in the UK asylum process. This thesis draws on the growing literature of medical anthropology and of other disciplines on the mental health and experience of distress in asylum and refugee populations. Unlike much previous literature that focuses on one group of actors, this research offers a unique contribution to knowledge by drawing methodologically on Actor Network Theory. It is therefore concerned with the spread and circulation of mental distress among the various actors involved in the asylum process. Based on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the Scottish city of Glasgow, this thesis carefully unpacks the affective experiences of asylum legislation and policy using structural violence as an analytical lens. It is organised around five themes utilised to explore distress: bureaucracy, paperwork, disclosure, emotional labour, and waiting. These interrelated themes illustrate how in certain contexts, distress spreads among actors yet in others it is impeded; how distress can be hidden in or drawn out of the materiality of paperwork that exists within the process; how the various conflicting idioms of distress that exist within the cultures that make up the asylum system come together in various spaces throughout the process; and how the political economy of asylum services demands certain coping strategies among its workers. Considering distress highlights the structural violence within the asylum process that is embodied through uncertainty, dependency, discourses of suspicion and deservingness, dehumanisation, stigma and shame. This thesis contends that there is a cumulative effect from seemingly minor everyday assaults on asylum applicants’ dignity, the pseudospeciation that operates in dealing with applicants, and the inequality regarding different actors’ ability to protect themselves from distress. The research illuminates the implicit violence written into government legislation, policies and funding decisions regarding asylum applicants. It concludes that attention needs to be given to the way that the asylum process is built on, creates and recreates structural violence of which asylum applicants are the primary victims.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HM Sociology