Art as Resistance: A Story from Immigration Detention (UK)


Art as Resistance: A Story from Immigration Detention (UK)



This public engagement project aims to foster public awareness of the lived experiences of people who are separated from their families and made vulnerable and marginalised by the state in indefinite immigration detention in the UK. Through storytelling and illustration of ethnographic data from research conducted in British immigration detention centres by Sarah Turnbull and Joanne Vincett, it also aims to innovate in how research is disseminated and shared both within and beyond academia.

There is a lack of public awareness that the Home Office regularly detains foreign nationals and those seeking asylum “on the spot”, without notifying them how long they will remain detained or if they will be released or removed/deported from the UK. Mental health issues developed from confinement and uncertainty are further compounded by the Home Office’s policy to detain people without a maximum time limit.

The narrative and illustration crafted in this project draw on a visual-tactile aspect of how people cope with immigration detention and resist its damage to their mental health that both Sarah and Jo observed in their separate ethnographic research projects. The practice of origami art (paper folding) in immigration detention was found to be particularly prevalent amongst female detainees in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. “Art as resistance” is a story of how detained women practice origami art, and transfer this knowledge to new arrivers, to counter the harmful effects of immigration detention on detained people and their families.

For more on this project, see:



PDF and animated GIFs


Image with accompanying text







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