‘Faceless’: Young People Seeking Asylum and Safety

Grainne McMahon, Rhetta Moran

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The participatory action research project described in this chapter took place with an established campaigning and research organisation in Manchester. The young activists who were part of the work were all living without legal status in the UK, and had all been failed by the asylum system and cast as the ‘abject’ (Tyler, 2013) and unwanted. Building upon decades of protest against racist and ‘othering’ polices in Britain (Copsey, 2016; England, 2019), the project illustrates a powerful example of young people who are very much on the margins, neglected and disbelieved by the state, and vilified by wider society and deliberate distortions of what it means to ‘seek asylum’, coming together to activate and find a voice in public to call for justice and change. Utilising Voloshinov’s (1929/1986) method of ‘language creation from below’ to create a shared understanding of their experiences in the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ (Goodfellow, 2019), the young activists engaged in consciousness-raising together to explore the commonality of their lives as ‘(young) people seeking asylum’. Rejecting the dominant ideological sign of ‘asylum seeker’, they created a play, ‘Faceless’, to depict the reality of their experiences, to present a counterstatement (Voloshinov, 1929/1986), in the public sphere (Fraser, 1990), and to exercise what Castells (2015) refers to as ‘counterpower’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReshaping Youth Participation
Subtitle of host publicationManchester in a European Gaze
EditorsGrainne McMahon, Harriet Rowley, Janet Batsleer
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781800433588, 9781800433601
ISBN (Print)9781800433595
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2022


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