Molar Forces, Molecular Flows, Nomadic Belongings: An Examination of Belonging of Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Young People

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This study examines the situated and embodied experiences of belonging of unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people who often live with the violent realities of the UK’s asylum and immigration system and with the residual violence of their home (countries) and migration journeys. Informed by a critical rendering of Deleuze and Guattari’s assemblage theory and its related notions of molar, molecular and nomadic lines, this study puts forward a new conceptualisation of belonging that embraces alternative ways of being, becoming and belonging. Such a conceptualisation responds to the need for a notion of belonging that cross-cuts the dualisms of personal and social, emotional and political, or material and discursive on which most current conceptualisations rely. Adopting a qualitative methodology involving 21 in-depth interviews with unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people aged between 16 and 24 (n=11), and professionals and carers working with and supporting these young people (n=10), this study goes beyond a concern of what belonging is. Instead, it explores how belonging works, how it is undermined and disrupted, or supported within conditions of migration and asylum and legal procedures. In doing so, this study directs attention towards affectivities and capacities which are produced by the processes of migration and asylum regimes, by the potentiality of future becomings and belongings, and by the enactments and micropolitics of supportive and trusting adults. This study argues that unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people’s belonging takes place within life characterised and constrained by the discursive and material milieu of migration and asylum policy and practice. And it concludes that unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people’s belonging is nomadic in its nature, and that belonging as a pre-subjective desire and flow exists in its potentiality and actuality, both of which are real.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Award date13 Sept 2021
Publication statusUnpublished - 30 Apr 2021


  • assemblage
  • belonging
  • unaccompanied youth
  • molar line
  • molecular line
  • nomadic line
  • rhizome


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