Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Refugee Women’s Volunteering as Resistance Practices to Micro‐Aggressions and Social Exclusion in the UK

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Abstract:  In an increasingly hostile environment for refugees in the UK and the “everyday bordering” that creates exclusionary effects for refugees and migrants, this article examines how refugee women of diverse backgrounds enact resistance practices through volunteering to challenge everyday microaggressions and social exclusion. We draw on in‐depth qualitative research with members of a support group for refugee women established by a local charity in England. We find that the support group not only allows the refugee women to foster a strong sense of solidarity in the face of everyday microaggressions; it also facilitates the women’s volunteering activities in the local community. Applying the concept of “differentiated embedding,” we argue that such activities enable these women to build wider social connections and skills for future employment and, crucially, develop emotional and linguistic resources to critique dominant exclusionary discourses and policies towards refugees through the idea of “contribution” and “giving back.” In so doing, we contribute to renewed interest in the concept of integration to highlight the agency of refugee women in creating differentiated embedding in a hostile environment.

Keywords:  critical incorporation; differentiated embedding; hostile environment; integration; microaggression; racism; refugees; resistance; volunteering



© Carolynn Low, Bindi V. Shah. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.