Dr Aila Spathopoulou

Lecturer in Criminology & Sociology

Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology Stirling

Dr Aila Spathopoulou

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About me

About me

I joined the department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology at the University of Stirling as a Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology on 1st January 2024. I am also an editor in ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies

I am currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow (2022-2025). In my project, I am interrogating the uneven spatio-temporalities of refuge/asylum and return from and across Europe (Greece, Finland, Poland) and the UK (England and Scotland) with a particular focus on how ferries, cruise ships and barges are being used as offshore floating prisons for people racialised and criminalised as "refugees", "displaced people", "asylum seekers" and "migrants".

I hold a PhD from the department of Geography at King’s College University, London. My monograph "Bordering and Governmentality around the Greek islands" published by Palgrave Macmillan (2023), is based on (auto)ethnographic work on the Aegean border islands in Greece during the so-called "refugee crisis" and its "aftermath" (2015-2020).

Since 2019, I am co-coordinator at the Feminist Autonomous Centre for research (FAC research) in Athens. My work with my collaborators at FAC research, has shaped my analysis and understanding of theory, 'crises', border violence and border abolition through feminist perspectives. At FAC I co-organise the annual 'Feminist No Borders Summer School'. Together with the Legal Centre Lesvos at FAC research we co-authored a research report titled "A pandemic of Abuses" that documents how Greece dismantled the right to asylum and normalised the violation of migrants' rights throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in Lesvos: https://legalcentrelesvos.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/A-Pandemic-of-Abuses.pdf

One of my latest joint projects has been thinking and writing together with Dr Isabel Meier (Northumbria University) on practices of refusal as relating otherwise within specific locations of struggle. Inspired by Indigenous and Black feminist writers, activists, and thinkers we approach relating otherwise as a ‘mode of engagement’ – not a theory or method – that shapes relationships with ourselves, each other, and the world. Our thinking about refusal also emerged from our engagement with different movements against borders and our involvement in diverse anti-racist, trans-feminist, and abolitionist activist collectives and spaces (e.g. Feminist Autonomous Centre for research 2023, the Feminist No Borders Summer School) and anti-racist No Borders/border abolition groups mobilising for a world without borders and prisons. You can find our Special Issue and the wonderful contributions from which we learned so much on practices of refusal, in open access in Fennia: An International Journal of Geography. https://fennia.journal.fi/issue/view/8956


My key research interests are in the criminalisation of migration, border violence and the ways in which it becomes inscribed in racialised and gendered ways on people’s bodies, carceral spaces (including island detention, ships and seas), harm (including forms of self-harm), border and prison abolition, practices of refusal and auto-ethnography and fiction. Central to my research is understanding how borders cut through our bodies and shape our most intimate relationships and how we relate to our very self.

My research focus for many years has been on the Aegean border islands, particularly Lesvos, a place that I consider both a home that I am always returning to and a prison from which I seek to escape...

In Scotland, my other home from my mother's side, I am (re)turning to the Scottish Highlands and Islands and embarking on a new research journey. In this geographical region that is represented as being remote, melancholic and isolating, I am (un)learning old and new meanings from experiences related to migration and belonging, arrival and departure, moving on and returning, harm and healing, research and writing.

In the meantime, I am continuing to follow ferries across Europe, Scotland and England, to understand how they immobilize people in offshore, floating prisons, which nonetheless can potentially become mobile vehicles of deportation but also sites of resistance and liberation.