What’s missing from legal geography and materialist studies of law? Absence and the assembling of asylum appeal hearings in Europe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Nick Gill
  • Andrew Burridge
  • Dan Fisher
  • Jessica Hambly
  • Nicole Hoellerer
  • Natalia Paszkiewicz
  • Rebecca Rotter

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Exeter


There is an absence of absence in legal geography and materialist studies of the law. Drawing on a multi-sited ethnography of European asylum appeal hearings, this paper illustrates the importance of absences for a fully-fledged materiality of legal events. We show how absent materials impact hearings, that non-attending participants profoundly influence them, and that even when participants are physically present, they are often simultaneously absent in other, psychological registers. In so doing we demonstrate the importance and productivity of thinking not only about law’s omnipresence but also the absences that shape the way law is experienced and practised. We show that attending to the distribution of absence and presence at legal hearings is a way to critically engage with legal performance.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)937-951
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • asyum, socio-legal, appeals