I have really enjoyed the opportunities I have had so far to engage with and learn from fellow researchers

FOSS - Beth Porter
Beth Porter
Department of Sociological Studies
PhD student
Beth is studying for a PhD as part of the Global Challenges CDT in the Faculty of Social Sciences. The Global Challenges CDT provides a stimulating interdisciplinary environment for students to research a key global challenge. Beth studies under the CDT in New Horizons in Borders and Bordering within the Global Challenges CDT, which explores bordering as a key global challenge for communities around the world and recognises that new bordering practices will have a range of social impacts for the foreseeable future which need to be understood.

What is the focus of your PhD?

Externalising Borders and Refugee Migration.

Tell us about your PhD and the research you are carrying out as part of the Global Challenges CDT

My PhD sits within the ‘New Horizons in Borders and Bordering’ strand of the Global Challenges CDT. My research will explore a phenomenon called ‘border externalisation’ and its implications for people who seek asylum. Border externalisation refers to the growing attempts of (primarily Global North) states to control migration in places that are geographically removed from their territories. It encompasses many tactics that can be employed just beyond a nation-state’s physical borders (such as Greece and Turkey’s maritime interceptions of refugee boats in the Aegean Sea), thousands of miles away (as in the UK’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda), as well as through virtual controls. More often than not, these bordering tactics come hand in hand with exclusionary, dehumanising and violent treatment directed towards certain racialised people-on-the-move, including asylum seekers. 

Whilst I am at the start of my PhD journey and still honing my exact focus, I am very interested in understanding the often-obscured role of private organisations and profiteering in border externalisation. I am also keen to explore what a historicised and postcolonial approach can offer for our understanding of today’s increasingly punitive and profitable border regimes.

Why did you decide to apply to study as part of the Global Challenges CDT?

Having studied and volunteered on projects connected to asylum and refugeehood for many years, I was initially drawn to the Global Challenges CDT by the opportunity it offered to conduct research on a topic I was deeply passionate about, as well as the chance to work with academics whose work I have looked up to since my undergraduate studies. 

There were, however, other things that encouraged me to apply to the Global Challenges CDT. The opportunities the CDT offered to teach and work collaboratively with non-academic organisations were a particular source of excitement for me, as I am keen to ensure my research has benefit and impact beyond the ‘ivory tower’ of academia.

What do you enjoy the most about your research?

Day-to-day, my PhD research combines a lot of the skills that I have most enjoyed using in my career to date - problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity. I love the process of making sense of a complex issue (and feeling a bit like a detective as I do it!), and there is no better feeling than that ‘lightbulb moment’ when the pieces start to come together and your ideas take shape. 

I have also been really enjoying the opportunities I have had so far to engage with and learn from fellow researchers, as well as community organisations and people with lived experience of migration. It’s been fantastic to be able to share my interests with others and, even more than that, listening to others’ perspectives and expertise is no doubt helping me to become a more confident and well-rounded researcher.

What do you plan to do after completing your PhD?

As I am so early in the process of doing a PhD, I am very open to seeing what I learn about potential career opportunities, and myself, as my project progresses. Right now, an academic role where I could research and teach, or a job in the refugee sector where I could be engaged in research, policy and advocacy, are both very appealing career paths. More than anything, I want to ensure that whatever I do post-PhD, the work is varied, fulfilling and as impactful as possible.