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Identities, Citizenship and Justice

The focus of our research informs questions around matters of identity, citizenship, and justice.

It considers issues such as: 

  • what it means to belong or be excluded from community
  • the psychology of belonging 
  • how identities are felt, formed, or socially constructed 
  • what it means to be a citizen
  • how communities foster belonging through promotion of social good 
  • immigration, asylum law and forced migration. 

We use a wide range of methodologies to research, including critical, socio-legal, historical, class-analysis, empirical, and doctrinal methods, as well as interdisciplinary approaches and participatory practices.


Image of Marjan Ajevski

Marjan Ajevski

Research Fellow in Law. He was previously a post-doctoral researcher at the PluriCourts Centre of Excellence, University of Oslo and a Visiting Professor at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. His research centres on issues of global governance with a special focus on international human rights and criminal courts. Marjan’s interest in issues of belonging arise in his consideration of whether and how international courts can protect individual liberty from the mechanisms of global governance, and how a sense of belonging (who do we belong to and who belongs to us) is created and mediated in a post-national space.

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Mischa Allen

Lecturer in Law. Mischa’s research interests lie in criminal law, penal policy, restorative justice, forgiveness and the boundaries of criminal law and legal philosophy. Her Phd thesis explored the contrast between forgiveness expressed by victims privately, and the ‘justice’ model of punishment, which traditionally excludes this. The thesis examined notions of justice and belonging for both victims and defendants in the criminal trial, including the roles of narrative, compassionate sentencing and restorative practices in post-trial outcomes. 

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Chiari Berneri

Chiara is a Lecturer in Law. Her research focuses on free movement of workers, EU citizenship, family reunification and broader EU immigration related issues, private sponsorships for refugees and Human Rights. Within the Belonging research cluster, Chiara’s research interest concerns the relationship between nationals and aliens and the role that borders play in enhancing this dichotomy.

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Siobhan Cullen 

Siobhan is a Lecturer in Law. Siobhan’s practice background in a legal aid firm inspired her interest in equality and access to justice and she has presented widely on street law/ public legal education and its contribution to the empowerment of minority groups including migrants. Siobhan is a commissioner with Equality Commission Northern Ireland, currently involved in drafting a race relations policy, and a Board member with Donegal Women’s Centre which supports migrant women. She has led various initiatives aimed at empowering migrant communities in Donegal including a Street Law programme for undocumented workers in the fishing industry, in collaboration with Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, as well as delivering public legal information and language support programmes to residents of the asylum seeker accommodation centres.
Siobhan has an interest in international student experience, has been involved in designing peer mentoring projects and in 2019 hosted a funded national seminar entitled Evidence-based strategies for those who teach international students and was a founding member of the College of Sanctuary initiative in ATU Donegal. 


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Emma Curryer

Emma is a Lecturer in law and Head of Department.  Emma is a solicitor specialising in criminal law and manages the Criminal Justice Clinic within the Open Justice Centre.  She has a passion for crime and justice and assisting those that can’t help themselves. The Criminal Justice Clinic considers whether cases have any grounds for appeal.  Her research is predominantly around improving outcomes for students, and she currently researches and delivers conferences on the importance of vicarious trauma training in clinical legal education and the law curriculum.  She is also undertaking a research project on student’s perceptions of employability skills obtained during clinical legal education.  

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David Dennis

Lecturer in Law. David’s research interest within the Belonging Cluster research group relates to the Government initiatives to promote local community involvement in the provision of community and public services. It considers the effect which current debates on the effectiveness, role and impact of the regulatory approach of the Charity Commission is likely to have on the autonomy and activities of local voluntary charitable and philanthropic initiatives. In particular, David is researching whether those debates and any consequent re-assessment of the regulatory oversight of charities is likely to lead to in turn to an increasing tendency by national charities to centralise the control, provision and monitoring of their activities at a local level to the detriment of those local initiatives.

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Caroline Derry

Senior Lecturer in Law. Caroline’s research interests include the criminal law’s regulation of sexuality. Her current research focuses upon temporalities of sexual consent, including as mechanisms for creating and withholding belonging and citizenship. Her monograph Lesbianism and the Criminal Law examined relationships between women from the seventeenth century to the present, raising complex questions of belonging and identity, particularly given the dominant legal strategy of silencing women’s same-sex sexualities. Caroline is also researching issues of gender, ethnicity and professional belonging in the early twentieth century legal profession

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Sophie Doherty

Lecturer in Law. Sophie’s work is interdisciplinary, drawing on literature and theory from Law and Art. Her research primarily explores feminist jurisprudence, sexual violence, and visual art. Presently, Sophie is exploring the intersections between art installations, sexual violence, and conflict within the context of the Kosovo War. Additionally, in light of her work with the Art/Law Network, Sophie’s research interests extend to reflections on art, law, and border(s), particularly in Ireland. Broadly speaking, her research interests fall across and between the following areas: Law and Humanities; Criminal Law; Jurisprudence; and, Transitional Justice. Relating to the Belonging Cluster, Sophie’s research areas are threaded with the cluster themes of belonging, identity, citizenship, and justice.  

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Jessica Giles

Jessica is a dual qualified barrister and solicitor currently working full time in the OU law school. She has a dual scholarship and research portfolio and she specialises in public law and human rights law. Her research is interdisciplinary, synthesising law, theology and religious studies, looking in particular at the place of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in constitutional structures.

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Neil Graffin

Senior Lecturer in Law. Neil's research interests are within international human rights law, immigration and asylum law, and law and wellbeing. Neil is the principal investigator on a project which looks at the legal consciousness of search and rescue volunteers who save the lives of people making dangerous crossings in the Mediterranean. He is also conducting research on issues of racial profiling in immigration control, considering how the performance of racial profiling as a practice within the community defines the parameters of belonging and exclusion.

image of Iyanuloluwa Kolawole

Iyanuloluwa Kolawole

Iyanuloluwa is a PhD student under the lead supervision of Neil Graffin. Iyanu's research interest focuses on immigration law, asylum law, and international human rights law. She's interested in how migrants can enjoy their fundamental human rights whether in transit or in countries of asylum. Her PhD thesis explores how migrant destination countries such as Greece and Italy can be held responsible for the human rights violations that occur in the Libyan and Turkish detention centres. Iyanu's research within the belonging cluster group relates to how migrants can be integrated into the community of host nations with access to basic human rights.

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Simon Lavis

Simon is a Senior Lecturer in Law. His research interests include the nexus between law, history and theory in relation to the Third Reich, the representation of Nazi law in academic discourse, and UK constitutional law. His research intersects with questions of belonging in particular in his focus on how law was used to foster notions of belonging in the Third Reich, among those elements of the population considered to ‘belong’ to the Nazi racial community, and the relationship between inclusion and exclusion among the ordinary population in Nazi Germany. He is also interested in the constitutional implications of belonging and the impact of constitutional developments on feelings of belonging in the UK.

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Keren Lloyd Bright

Keren is an Honorary Associate and formerly a Senior Lecturer in Law at The Open University Law School. Keren’s focus within the Belonging research cluster is upon the dynamic interface between the psychology of belonging, the visual arts and law. Other current research interests include psychological abuse and the law (coercive control), prisons and gender identity, and prison-based public legal education. Keren’s research and scholarship outputs are listed on her ORCID profile and include book chapters, journal articles and various online outputs. 

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Fiona MacDonald

Lecturer in Law. Fiona’s research has its foundations in her experience as a court lawyer in the adult and youth criminal courts and in the family courts, focusing on children’s cases. Her PhD focused on a comparative study of the implementation and incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in domestic laws. Her current research focuses on the construction of environmental rights within children’s rights. Within the belonging cluster her research interests focus on both children’s citizenship and also on criminal justice issues.  

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Kate Ritchie

Kate is a Lecturer in Law. Her research in this area revolves around the rights of migrants at sea, particularly in the Central Mediterranean and the broader questions this raises about the efficacy of the human rights regime in this regard. She is also exploring the scope that technological advances, such as blockchain, have for facilitating self-sovereign identify of migrants, as well as the concerns these developments raise around data protection and human rights and the broader implications for the notion of citizenship. Through her involvement with the work of the Open Justice Centre she is also interested in the question of 'belonging' in the context of prison communities and, in particular, the intersection with the rights of immigrant detainees. 

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Wannette Van-Eg-Dom-Tuinstra

Wannette is an Associate Lecturer in Law specialising in European Human Rights Law. Her particular interest is in minority rights, and more particularly the options and opportunities available to stateless nations, and the role of European institutions in managing (or exacerbating) state- sub-state conflicts. Pre-academia, Wannette brought her human rights research and advocacy skills to a range of NGOs, working on issues from stop and search, to cross cultural rights to physician rights. Wannette is also interested in legal methodologies and particularly validity issues in researching human rights law.