Sanctuary Songs Academic Conference

The academic conference will take place from 19th-20th June 2023 (during UNHCR Refugee week) at Newcastle University, a University of Sanctuary. The conference will be in person only, although we will record the keynote presentations. See the link to the left for information on fees and conference registration.

Fairness Zone



SANCTUARY SONGS: refugees and asylum-seekers in/and the media - Tuesday 20 June 2023

Newcastle University, Armstrong Building, Room G.08


09.20-09.30      Welcome

09.30-10.15      Keynote 1 – Dr Vivienne Francis

10.15-11.30      Paper session 1: Resistance and experience

11.30-11.45      Refreshments

11.45-13.00      Paper session 2: Collaboration and agency

13.00-14.00      Lunch

14.00-14.45      Keynote 2 – Prof Susanne Fengler

14.45–16.15      Paper session 3: Representation as ‘other’

16.15-16.30      Refreshments

16.30-17.00      Roundtable

17.00-18.00      Networking




Dr Vivienne Francis, London College of Communication, UK - From news producer to Uber driver: valuing and empowering the experiences of the “other” through social justice journalism

Prof Susanne Fengler, TU Dortmund University, Germany- Reporting on migrants and refugees




Session 1: Resistance and experience

Dr Boris Ružić, University of Rijeka, Croatia - No regard for le regard? The migrant image as a counter-archival testimony

Dr Rob Sharp, University of Sussex, UK - ‘Performative refugeeness’: voice, recognition, and participation in creative mediation

Poppy Sheward-Skelton, Independent Researcher, UK - The music of refugees living in Brighton and Hove

Dr Soudeh Ghaffari, Newcastle University, UK - Muslim women refugees and adoption of social media


Session 2: Collaboration and agency

Dr Jenn Durrett, Bournemouth University, UK - Reclaiming agency through film education

Dr Zeena Feldman and Liz Hingley, Kings College London, UK - The SIM project and displacement: the art and ethics of community research

Jess Crombie, London College of Communication, UK - Gathering the stories of refugees and asylum seekers for aid organisations

Prof Kaarina Nikunen & Dr Sanna Valtonen, University of Tampere, Finland - Digital borders of everyday life of undocumented migrants expressed through collaborative photography workshops


Session 3: Representation as ‘other’

Dr James Rendell, University of South Wales, UK - When no roads lead home

Dr Jon Hackett, St Mary’s University, UK - Social sadism and the refugee safari

Dr Marina Morani, Cardiff University, UK - Representing the ‘(im)mobility’ of asylum seekers and migrants through the lens of ‘proximity’

Dr Ilgar Seyidov, Atilim University, Turkey - On the representations of Syrians, Afghanis and Ukrainians in the media: the case of Turkey

Dr Amandine Van Neste-Gottignies, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium - “What is news?” The mediatization of the 2015 refugee reception crisis in Europe



Original Call for Papers

The experiences of refugees and asylum-seekers remains salient in and for the media as journalists report from one conflict zone to another, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine adding immediacy to the coverage of war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, (re)animating public and political debate about how ‘we’ should respond. At the same time, major crises in regions such as DR Congo, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, South Sudan, Chad, Mali, Sudan, Nigeria, Burundi and Ethiopia go largely unreported (Wanless et al, 2022). Generations of Palestinians have now grown up in UN-administered refugee camps in the Middle East, around one million Rohingya people from Myanmar are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, and the accelerating climate crisis is leading to the further displacement of millions of people worldwide.  Some scholars suggest that media coverage of war often lacks context or historical perspective, so that discussions about the economic and cultural aspects as well as the wider structural issue of migration, are largely ignored (Fengler et al, 2022). It is scarcely original to suggest that mainstream media outlets play an important role in informing the public about refugees and asylum-seekers – for example, the number of people attempting (and sometimes tragically failing) to enter Britain informally via the English Channel are a regular feature of UK national news – but the way the issue is reported is seen by many commentators as contributing to the rise of hostile populism across Europe and beyond.  However, refugees, asylum-seekers, activists and others interested in calling media to account are not standing passively by, but are increasingly using both legacy and social media platforms and technologies to challenge and contest misinformation and negative and polarising and narratives, not least in order to tell their own stories in their own words.


For the academic conference, we now welcome abstracts which focus on any aspect of the relationship between refugees, asylum-seekers and the media from a range of contributors including academics, media professionals and media practitioners, especially those with lived experience and/or experience of collaborating with refugee or asylum-seeker communities. We are keen to receive abstracts of work which will be presented in a variety of formats including text, screen and sound-based based forms, as well as multi-media work*.  Topics could range from, but are definitely not limited to:


  •    representations in mainstream or social media
  •    reporting policy and/or legal responses
  •    refugee and asylum-seeking media practices, websites and/or social media accounts
  •    refugee and asylum-seeking experiences as sources or subjects of news discourse
  •    alternative media and community media representations
  •    refugees and asylum-seekers making media
  •    citizen journalism and the refugee and asylum-seeking experience
  •    participatory media projects with refugees and asylum-seekers
  •    practices of journalists and media practitioners with lived experience as refugees   
  •    the ethics of reporting
  •    refugee and asylum-seeker voices in the public sphere
  •    empathy and affect in media discourse
  •    journalism education in relation to covering refugees and asylum-seekers
  •    collaborative media projects with refugee or asylum-seeker communities
  •    refugees, asylum-seekers and the adoption/adaptation of media technologies


Publication opportunity

After the conference, we will be inviting full papers to be submitted for possible inclusion in a special double issue of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics which will be published in 2024 (issue 2, summer; issue 3, autumn).


Dates for your diary

  •    9 December, 2022 – submission of abstracts/posters (350-500 words)
  •    6 February, 2023 - decisions announced
  •   20 February, 2023 – registration opens



PhD students are welcome to submit abstracts but can, as an alternative, submit a research poster.

 For further information, please contact Karen Ross and David Baines at:    

*depending on the technical requirements