Postdoctoral Fellow: Franz Bernhardt

Fellowship Title: The Right to Host? – Sub-State Nationalism(s), Sovereignty and the Exclusionary Politics of Asylum in the UK and Europe

In response to what has been called the European ‘refugee crisis’ in 2015, the devolved Welsh Government committed that Wales should become the world’s first Nation of Sanctuary through building a ‘culture of welcome and hospitality’. This was an interesting moment given that Wales does not have any direct responsibility for UK borders. What might it mean, in practice and in theory, for Wales to declare itself a ‘Nation of Sanctuary’? My doctoral research on this new discourse of Wales as a ‘Nation of Sanctuary’ found that it provides scholars with unexpected ways of revisiting the metaphor of hospitality and its role in framing migration discourses. While the critical literature on migration has successfully explored the limits of hospitality as a framing and response to the exclusionary politics of asylum, this new research found that the imaginary of Wales as a hospitable ‘Nation of Sanctuary ‘was also used to create national self-imaginaries through a discursive politics of differentiation from the UK government, the Home Office and its exclusionary asylum regime- a moral othering of the British sovereign nation-state.

The postdoctoral fellowship develops this idea further in asking: “How does the political strive for national independence effects attitudes towards migration and the politics of asylum of the sovereign nation-state?” First, it develops a first conceptual and empirical engagement with how the political strive for national independence affects attitudes towards the politics of asylum- an issue that has hitherto been underexplored in the critical literature on migration. The project conceptualises this intersection between discourses of sovereignty, sub-state nationalism and the politics and discourses of migration and asylum. It proposes to build conceptually on the findings form the doctoral case study in Wales and to compare them with the discursive politics of asylum taking place in other regions with sub-state nationalist movements in the UK and Europe.