My main research project focuses on climate displacement. Climate change impacts drive displacement in a number of ways: extreme weather-events destroy homes, environmental degradation undercuts the viability of livelihoods, sea-level rise and coastal erosion force communities to relocate, and risks to food and resource security magnify the sources of political instability. In this research project, I articulate an account of what we owe to those displaced by the impacts of climate change in a variety of different contexts. I'm currently writing a monograph and a series of papers stemming from this project. You can listen to me talking about this research project here.
I'm also just beginning a second project on gentrification. Gentrification is often described as an injustice, but political theorists have had little to say about it. This project develops a normative theory of gentrification, which explains when and why gentrification is an injustice, and how we can justifiably respond to it. I examine both residential displacement and the social and cultural changes associated with gentrification, and the justifiability of various public policy proposals and practices of resistance to gentrification.
You can find information about my published papers below.
"Refugees, Membership, and State System Legitimacy"
Ethis & Global Politics (2022) (co-authored with Rebecca Buxton) (published version) [online first]
In the literature on refugeehood in political theory, there has been a recent turn towards what have been called “state system legitimacy” views. These views derive an account of states’ obligations to refugees from a broader picture of the conditions for international legitimacy. This paper seeks to develop the state system legitimacy view of refugeehood by subjecting the most developed version of it—the account developed by David Owen—to critical scrutiny. We diagnose an ambiguity in Owen’s theory of refugeehood, in the concept of political membership, and unpack the implications of this ambiguity for state system legitimacy views. First, we reconstruct the key aspects of Owen’s account of refugeehood and show how it represents an advance over competing theories. Then we discuss the methodological underpinnings of Owen’s account, showing the constraints and opportunities faced by state system legitimacy views. Next, we raise some problems for the conceptual distinctions that Owen develops between different types of refugee protection: asylum, sanctuary, and refuge. The underlying feature that leads to these problems is an ambiguity in the concept of political membership, which is at the core of Owen’s view of refugeehood. Finally, we distinguish two interpretations of political membership in the institution of refugeehood and chart out some possible ways forward for state system legitimacy views. The critique developed here is a sympathetic one, aimed at the further development of state system legitimacy views.
"Gentrification and Everyday Democracy"
European Journal of Political Theory (2022) (published version) [online first]
This paper diagnoses a novel problem with gentrification: that it can hinder valuable forms of everyday democratic communication. In order to make this argument, I develop a democratic interpretation of Iris Marion Young’s “ideal of city life,” according to which social differentiation is valuable because of the epistemic role that it plays in the production and circulation of diverse social perspectives. I then leverage that ideal to examine two kinds of spatial and demographic changes associated with gentrification: community disintegration in enclaves and homogenisation in public spaces. I argue that community disintegration in enclaves can make the production of social perspectives within disadvantaged communities more difficult. I then argue that homogenisation in public spaces can undermine the role of such spaces as sites of democratic performance for the wider circulation of social perspectives in the public sphere. Finally, I reflect on the reach of my argument for broader judgement about the permissibility of policies that foster or permit gentrification.
"Climate Change and Displacement: Towards a Pluralist Approach"
European Journal of Political Theory (2022) (published version) (pre-print) [online first]
This paper sets out a research agenda for a political theory of climate displacement, by critically examining one prominent proposal—the idea of a normative status for ‘climate refugees’—and by proposing an alternative. Drawing on empirical work on climate displacement, I show that the concept of the climate refugee obscures the complexity and heterogeneity of climate displacement. I argue that, because of this complexity and heterogeneity, approaches to climate displacement that put the concept of the climate refugee at their centre will fail to treat like cases alike and relevantly different cases differently. In response to these failings, I outline an alternative—the pluralist theory of climate displacement—which confronts the specific challenges that climate displacement poses in different practical and institutional contexts, whilst also treating climate displacement as a unified phenomenon at the second-order level of burden-sharing.
"Labor Migration and Climate Change Adaptation"
American Political Science Review 116, no. 3 (2022) (published version) (pre-print)
Social scientific evidence suggests that labour migration can increase resilience to climate change. For that reason, some have recently advocated using labour migration policy as a tool of climate adaptation. This paper engages with the normative question of whether, and under what conditions, states may permissibly use labour migration policy as a tool of climate adaptation. I argue that states
may use labour migration policy as a tool of climate adaptation, and may even have a duty to do so, subject to two moral constraints. First, states must also provide acceptable alternative options for adaptation, so that the vulnerable are not forced to sacrifice their morally important interests in being able to remain where they are. Second, states may not impose restrictive terms on labour migrants in order to make accepting greater numbers less costly for themselves, because doing so unfairly shifts
the costs of adaptation onto the most vulnerable.
"Domination and Misframing in the Refugee Regime"
Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 25, no. 7 (2022) (published version) (ungated)
The current practices of refugee protection largely leave the burdens of the refugee regime to lie where they fall. Those states which are geographically proximate to refugee-producing regions, already amongst the least advantaged, bear the bulk of these burdens. In this paper, I critically assess two proposals which seek to address this maldistribution: a market in asylum services and a principle of comparative advantage. I argue that from the standpoint of justice, these proposals share two objectionable features. First, they enable relations of domination between states, because they ignore the background relations of inequality upon which they depend for their effectiveness. Second, they institute an injustice of ‘misframing,’ in that they preclude consideration of refugees’ legitimate claims to be hosted (or not to be hosted) in a particular state. The failings of these approaches are illuminating and, I argue, provide us with some theoretical desiderata for a positive account of justice in the distribution of responsibilities to refugees.
"Justice and Internal Displacement"
Political Studies (2021) (published version - open access) [online first]
This paper develops a normative theory of the status of ‘internally displaced persons’ (IDPs). Political theorists working on forced migration have paid little attention to IDPs, but IDPs bear a distinctive normative status that implies a set of rights that its bearer can claim and correlate duties that others owe. This paper develops a practice-based account of justice in internal displacement, which aims to answer the questions of who counts as an IDP and what is owed to IDPs (and by whom). Section I addresses the question of who counts as an IDP by offering an interpretation of the conditions of non-alienage and involuntariness. Section II articulates an account of what is owed to IDPs that draws on and refines the idea of ‘occupancy rights.’ Section III sets out an account of the role of the international community in supplementing the protection of IDPs by their own states.
"Responsibility and Climate-induced Displacement"
Global Justice: Theory, Practice, Rhetoric 11, no. 2 (2019) (published version - open access)
Winner of the 2018 Jonathan Trejo-Mathys Essay Prize.
This paper addresses the phenomenon of climate-induced displacement. I argue that there is scope for an account of asylum as compensation owed to those displaced by the impacts of climate change which needs only to appeal to minimal normative commitments about the requirements of global justice. I demonstrate the possibility of such an approach through an examination of the work of David Miller. Miller is taken as an exemplar of a broadly ‘international libertarian’ approach to global justice, and his work is a useful vehicle for this project because he has an established view about both responsibility for climate change and about the state’s right to exclude would-be immigrants. In the course of the argument, I set out the relevant aspects of Miller’s views, reconstruct an account of responsibility for the harms faced by climate migrants which is consistent with Miller’s views, and demonstrate why such an account yields an obligation to provide asylum as a form of compensation to ‘climate migrants.’
"The Ethics of Climate-induced Community Displacement and Resettlement"
Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 9, no. 3 (2018) (co-authored with Catriona McKinnon) (published version)
Climate‐induced resettlement programs are happening right now in places around the world where populations face high risks from climatic impacts. Burgeoning literatures are considering the ethical implications of climate change more broadly, and the ethics of migration, but the nexus between the two issues has not been given enough attention by moral and political theorists, especially with respect to climate‐induced community resettlement. Here, we sketch the key nodes in a debate we think should take place, which will be made even more urgent in the coming decades as climate change impacts on communities least resilient to it.