Special Issue "The Politics of Refusal"

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760). This special issue belongs to the section "Contemporary Politics and Society".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 28 February 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Isabel Meier
Guest Editor
Department of Sociology, Northampton University, Northampton NN1 5PH, UK
Interests: politics of asylum; bordering; post-colonialism; solidarity; race and emotions; collaborative ethnographic methods
Dr. Aila Spathopoulou

Guest Editor
Department of Politics and International Relations, Goldsmiths University, New Cross, London SE14 6NW, UK
Interests: bordering; uneven geographies; cultural mediation; racialized labors; post-colonialism; feminist research methodologies

Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues

In this Special Issue, we want to gather papers reflecting on the politics of refusal in the context of border struggles, that is, how differently situated subjects enact refusal through their struggles against a transnational regime that tries to impose borders through our everyday lives. As researchers and activists, we have witnessed an engagement in politics of refusal to negotiate racial and colonial dominance, articulated in research and solidarity encounters, as well as with the state, humanitarian agencies, and transnational corporations in the context of the so-called “refugee crisis” and hotspot management at EU borders. 

Through her research on the hotspot regime in Greece, Aila observed how the hotspot system exploits the linguistic and cultural capital of “established migrants”/“second-generation migrants” in order to effectively control newly arriving asylum seekers. These people, under the title of “cultural mediators”, are being mobilized as a precarious workforce to do the necessary work of mediation and translation in the emerging economy of the “refugee crisis”. Aila became particularly interested in what she encountered as acts of resisting to perform this particular border work, by refusing in certain instances to translate the national “order of things”, resulting in what state and humanitarian actors referred to as “incomplete translation”.

In her work and activism with people stuck in the asylum system in Germany and the UK, Isabel observed people’s refusal to take part in activist group discussions and meetings as a tactic to withdraw from spaces and encounters resonating with colonial histories and presents. Paying particular attention to the emotional dimension of everyday borders, these acts of refusal can be understood as a way of negotiating the taxing emotional, mental, and physical work of making inequalities visible. 

Anna sought refuge in methodologies of refusal when trying to negotiate how (not) to write about social movements that emerged in response to the so-called “refugee crisis” in Athens and Lesvos and when questioning the role that photographic representations played in reconstituting the Aegean border space as a mediatized spectacle of arrival (Carastathis and Tsilimpounidi, 2020). What might it mean to create representations of “refugees” that contest the dehumanizing sociolegal processes through which human beings are granted or denied “protection”? How can a politics of refusal animate research and activism on and against borders?

In this Special Issue, we want to draw on the important work of indigenous and Black feminist researchers on “ethnographic refusal” (Simpson, 2007, 2014, 2016; Tuck and Yang, 2014; Shange, 2019) and explore further the diverse ways in which refusal opens up political possibilities—in the form of disengagement from structures of inequality and violence, as well as new ways of relating and enacting solidarity. 

This Special Issue will focus on (but is not limited to) the following topics:

  • The politics of refusal as an epistemological and political stance in ethnographic research on the “refugee crisis”;
  • Refusal as participation in research on the border regime;
  • Political possibilities emerging from the refusal;
  • The politics of refusal within border work at hotspots, refugee camps, and humanitarian non-governmental organizations;
  • Acts of refusal within asylum activist spaces;
  • Refusal, translation, and mediation: refusals to translate and/or mediate by asylum activists, “refugee-volunteers”, and cultural mediators;
  • A form of resistance within migrant struggles;
  • Embodied forms of refusal;
  • Ethnographic refusal in the context of research on borders or other neocolonial formations.


Carastathis, Anna & Myrto Tsilimpounidi, Reproducing Refugees: Photographìa of a Crisis. London, Rowman & Littlefield International, 2020.

Shange, Savannah. “Black Girl Ordinary: Flesh, Carcerality, and the Refusal of Ethnography.” Transforming Anthropology 27, no. 1 (2019): 3–21 

Simpson, Audra. “On Ethnographic Refusal: Indigeneity, ‘Voice’ and Colonial Citizenship.” Junctures 9 (2007): 67-80.

Simpson, Audra. Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States. Durham: Duke University Press2014.

Simpson, Audra. ”Consent’s Revenge." Cultural Anthropology 31, no. 3 (2016): 326–333. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca31.3.02

Tuck, Eve and Yang K.W. “Unbecoming claims: Pedagogies of refusal in qualitative research.” Qualitative Inquiry 20, no. 6 (2014): 811-818.

Tuck, Eve, and K. Wayne Yang. "R-words: Refusing research." Humanizing research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities 223 (2014): 248.

Dr. Isabel Meier
Dr. Aila Spathopoulou
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Social Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Politics of refusal 
  • Ethnographic refusal 
  • Participatory research 
  • Border work 
  • ‘Refugee crisis’ 
  • Translation 
  • Cultural mediation 
  • Migrant struggles 
  • Embodiment 
  • Decoloniality 
  • Resistance

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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