Time in the Shelter, Time on the Street: Refused Asylum Seekers and the Tragedy of the Border

Rainey, Mark. 2017. Time in the Shelter, Time on the Street: Refused Asylum Seekers and the Tragedy of the Border. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This research articulates a dialectical theory of the border. It argues that the border should be viewed as a ‘concrete abstraction’ that is at once reified as an ideal object, and extends both spatially and temporally to bear down on the concrete experience of day-to-day life in divisive and often malign ways. The research explores the tragedy of the border for those on whom it bears down and pushes in to destitution, and attempts to challenge this injustice.

This is an ethnographic study, and particular focus is given to the experiences of destitute asylum seekers making use of a network of night shelters provided by the Boaz Trust in Manchester, UK. The Boaz Trust is a faith-based organisation that provides accommodation, support, and advocacy to refused asylum seekers in the city and aims to ‘end asylum destitution’. Based on participant observation working in the shelters as a volunteer, time spent living in the shelters, and time alongside destitute asylum seekers on the streets of Manchester, I explore the simultaneous experience of inclusion and exclusion that characterises ‘spaces of asylum’ in the city, and of a ‘weaponised time’ marked by a bifurcated ‘waiting’; where individuals see out each day without the right to work, access public funds, or remain in the UK while also caught up in a longer term, antagonistic, and dysfunctional bureaucratic temporality. I also examine the attempts of volunteers working in the shelters to press against such injustices, exploring these attempts within an understanding of justice as coming in to being through repetitive, arduous and often banal practices of care, and as speculative, fragile and always incomplete.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



migration, asylum, faith-based organisations, tragedy, borders, dialectics, Gillian Rose, Henri Lefebvre

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)


30 April 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

16 May 2017 07:49

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:48



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