Making Gender Visible: An Intersectional Exploration of Immigration Detention in the UK, Italy, and Portugal.

A 2 year project led by Dr Francesca Esposito, funded by the Newton Fund through the British Academy.

Immigration detention is increasingly used worldwide to sort, contain, identify, and expel unauthorised and undesiderable non-nationals from state territory. In spite of the concerns raised around this practice, little research has been developed inside these sites, primarily because of the difficulties in gaining research access to them. In particular, we know very little about women's experiences of confinement and their views on detention.

To close this gap, and integrate a gender perspective in the analysis of immigration detention, this project looks at detained women’s lived experiences analysing them in light of a feminist intersectional framework that acknowledges the interplay between gender, race, sexuality, nationality, and other structural determinants that shape women’s experiences in context. In doing so, it also focuses on and problematises the notion of women’s ‘vulnerability’ as framed and operationalised in much detention policy and practice.

The main research questions are: How do immigration detention centres and people working inside them conceptualise women and with what effect on them? And, how do women make sense of their experiences inside these institutions and understand their main challenges? These questions will be explored through a unique comparative case study of the UK, Italy, and Portugal. The ultimate goals of this crosscultural project are i) to help fill a gap in the scientific literature, and ii) to provide resources for the development of policies and practices concerned with the dignity and rights of women detainees, and, above all, with women’s views on detention.