From phosphate to refugees

My doctoral research at the University of Oxford drew on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Geneva, Australia, Fiji, and the Republic of Nauru to examine the outsourcing of asylum processes to new localities. This research generated questions on the commodification of human mobility and the challenges of social movements, specifically how oppositional strategies converge in the construction of inequality and solidification of human economies. 

I currently have a book manuscript under edit with Cornell University Press on the consequential damages of phosphate and refugee processing in Nauru, with a focus on the relations between high-risk mineral and migrant offshore industries.


forthcoming    From Phosphate to Refugees: The Offshore Refugee Boom in the Republic of Nauru. Book manuscript under edit with Cornell University Press.

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

under review   Violence and Extraction of a Human Commodity: From Phosphate to Refugees in the Republic of Nauru

forthcoming Colonial Afterlives of Infrastructure: From Phosphate to Refugee Processing in the Republic of Nauru. For Mobilities Special Issue: Infrastructures of Injustice: Migration & Border Mobilities.

forthcoming Refugee Extractivism: Law and Mining a Human Commodity in the Republic of Nauru. For Saint Louis University Law Journal Special Issue.

2018       Refugee Economies: Violence and Extraction of a Human Commodity. Society & Space: Special Issue ‘Destitution Economies.’

2017 Outsourcing the Refugee ‘Crisis.’ Social Justice Journal Online.


Manufacturing Landscapes

The creation of special economic zones (SEZs) – in which refugees are provided with the right to work, while trade partners such as the European Union give trading concessions on manufactured products – has been globally championed as an innovative alternative to refugee camps, as well as to protracted refugee situations. This project uses ethnographic field methods and global production theory, to examine if SEZs represent progress towards realizing mobility rights for displaced persons, or another move towards capturing the market and labour power ideals. I organized and lead graduate field intensive courses in Jordan during the spring and summer breaks in 2018, in which I led two groups of students to examine the work of nongovernmental organisations focused on Syrian resettlement. Students designed a research project as a group and learned to conduct meaningful ethnographic research in sensitive contexts while obtaining an overview of the central debates in refugees and humanitarian politics. Both field courses were fully funded by the International Rescue Committee. I presented the research at an alternative solutions workshop on refugee protection in Toronto, devised for the Fall 2018 Global Compact on Refugees, and again though Columbia University’s Global Center in Amman in 2019.

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Morris, Julia. 2019 forthcoming. The Politics and Practices of the Jordan Refugee Compact. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees.


reforming immigration detention: humanitarian expertise, conflicted knowledge and the neoliberal governance of migration

In the drive to improve the expanding practice of immigration detention, state and non-state actors have begun to elicit and implement immigration detention reforms worldwide, developing an elaborate multilateral framework around improvement. This project focused on these policies and practices of migration governance, looking at the work of the human rights and development experts and agencies that respond to increased practices of state migration securitization. 

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Morris, Julia. 2017. Power, Capital and Immigration Detention Rights: Making Networked Markets in Global Detention Governance at UNHCR. Global Networks 17: 400–422. 

Book Chapters

--- 2016. In the Market of Morality: International Human Rights Standards and the Immigration Detention Improvement Complex. In Intimate Economies: Critical Perspectives on Immigration Detention. Hiemstra, N. and Conlon, D., eds. London: Routledge.

Climate change uncertainties in the republic of nauru

My future research project is a longitudinal study of climate change impacts in Nauru. Projections of sea level rise indicate that Nauru is experiencing dramatic ecological upheavals, while ocean acidification is affecting Nauru’s coral reefs, fisheries and marine resources. This next project engages with Marxian political economic theory that speaks to the lopsided ways in which one part of the globe is converted into a field of production for supplying (or mitigating) the other. Part of the project will be an examination of the ways in which Nauruans conceptualize climate change in a context where the country is imbricated in managing not becoming refugees.