Open Access (free)
The politics of immigration controversies

In July 2013, the UK government arranged for a van to drive through parts of London carrying the message ‘In the UK illegally? GO HOME or face arrest.’ The vans were short-lived, but they were part of an ongoing trend in government-sponsored communication designed to demonstrate control and toughness around immigration. This book explores the effects of such performances of toughness: on policy, on public debate, on pro-migrant and anti-racist activism, and on the everyday lives of people in Britain. This book both presents research findings, and provides insights into the practice of conducting research on such a charged and sensitive topic.

Blending original research, theoretical analysis, and methodological reflections, the book addresses questions such as:

  • Who gets to decide who ‘belongs’?
  • How do anti-migrant sentiments relate to changing forms of racism?
  • Are new divisions, and new solidarities, emerging in the light of current immigration politics?


Written in a clear and engaging style, the book sets an agenda for a model of collaborative research between researchers, activists, and people on the ground.

Open Access (free)

In this chapter we:

  1. Contextualise the immigration regimes and debates within which our study took place
  2. Describe and discuss the Go Home van and related government communications in relation to broader immigration regimes and practices
  3. Summarise briefly our key findings from the research, which will be developed and elaborated on throughout the book
  4. Outline the approach that we took in the project as activist researchers
  5. Provide an overview of what is in the book

in Go home?
Open Access (free)
Why are we doing this? Public sociology and public life

A researcher and a community activist discuss ways in which academic researchers worked with community organisations on researching the impact of Home Office immigration campaigns, the difference this collaboration has made, and some of the challenges such work presents.

in Go home?

This chapter draws on the framework of performance politics proposed by the political scientist Shirin Rai (2014). It discusses Operation Vaken as part of a deployment of theatricalised violence by the British state in recent decades in which performances of state power are directed at many audiences and serve to segment the population. Despite attempts to address a diversity of audiences, our research suggests that immigration policing communications and performances appear to be met with indifference or anxiety. They can also be re-interpreted through a popular cynicism that is influenced by a broader culture of anti-politics. The chapter explores the impact of such scepticism on the politics of migration, and asks whether there are possibilities for a politics based on mutuality.

in Go home?
Open Access (free)
Emotions and research

This section critically reflects on the role of emotions in fieldwork, particularly when researching ‘sensitive subjects’ that have serious implications for both research participants and the researcher. Using examples from our own research practice, particularly in focus groups, we consider the ethics of research in a broad sense, including the effects on researchers, research partners, and participants of both conducting research, and the choices made in the process of researching.

in Go home?

The focus of this chapter is on how the politicisation of immigration policy in the UK tests the limits of liberal governmentality. Typically, this form of government is understood in terms of splitting questions of 'politics' from those of 'expertise', employing statistics, professions, economics, audits and so on, to insulate certain issues as matters of 'fact' or 'efficiency'. By engaging with policy makers’ accounts of the negotiations they make, we explore the strains that immigration control places on liberal governmentality, with its desire to separate technical decisions from politics, and the challenge posed by post-liberal approaches which emphasise morality and distinctions between deserving and undeserving subjects.

in Go home?
Open Access (free)
Migration research and the media

This section reflects on the politics, ethics, and practicalities of communicating academic research on migration through and with mainstream media channels.

in Go home?

This chapter shows how local histories of migration and activism impact on how immigration enforcement campaigns are experienced and interpreted. For example, it discusses how opposition to Go Home posters in Glasgow fed into debates about Scottish Independence and how the Go Home vans’ appearance in West London played into divisive discourses of respectability among more established migrants and British citizens. The chapter argues that it is vital to consider specific sites of immigration intervention and resistance (e.g. the hospital waiting room, Twitter) and how local and urban contexts shape and are shaped by reaction and resistance when examining the impact of anti-immigration campaigns.

in Go home?
Open Access (free)
Ethics in uncomfortable research situations

This section discusses the ethics and practice of research by engaging with questions of objectivity, positionality, reflexivity and power relations. Using an example from our research, we discuss the shifting power relations within the practice of research which are seldom discussed, and argue that a tick-box approach to ethics in social research is not adequate. We argue, following Haraway and others, that an ‘objective’ view from nowhere is not possible, and in its absence researchers must grapple with the ethics of multiple interests, discomforts, and power relations in the practice of research.

in Go home?

This chapter is concerned with the making of distinctions between ‘deserving and ‘undeserving’ migrants. It does this through an examinination of tensions within local communities and traditional welfare distinctions between good and bad citizens. These distinctions increasingly rely on neoliberal tropes of aspiration and achievement that value only those considered to be economically productive. As such, they create distance (including through the use of border controls) from those seen as dependent and problematic; as taking from rather than contributing to the nation state. In an intersectional analysis the chapter looks at the fracturing of the connections between ‘race’ and immigration and discusses the role of socially conservative codes of respectability in internalising disgust towards particular social groups – sex workers, the destitute, people using alcohol and drugs (some of who are assumed to have irregular immigration status).

in Go home?