Dr Deirdre Conlon


Deirdre Conlon is a critical migration studies scholar in human geography. Trained at the Graduate Center, CUNY, New York, Conlon’s work examines immigration and detention issues in the US, UK, and Ireland. Her research investigates immigration enforcement and governance and their impacts on migrant experience and everyday life. Conlon’s work examines detention and destitution economies, in other words, the minute ways that irregular migrants’ experiences in detention and beyond are shaped by money, markets, commodification, and privatisation. Deirdre is co-editor (with Nancy Hiemstra, Stony Brook, NY) of Intimate Economies of Immigration Detention: Critical Perspectives published by Routledge. She has published 30+ academic journal articles and book chapters along with public facing scholarship including in The Hill, a leading U.S. politics and policy news website, and contributions to the UK’s Refugee Weeks events. Conlon is a member of national and international research networks including Carceral Geography, a working group of the Royal Geographical Society with Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG); the Justice, Arts and Migration Network (JAM); and the Detention and Asylum Cluster of the Refugee Research Network, an international network of immigration studies scholars housed in the Center for Refugee Studies, York University, Toronto, CA. Conlon is Associate Editor of Political Geography Open Research, and is also on the editorial boards of Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space and Incarceration.

Conlon’s work is typically collaborative. With an interdisciplinary background in environmental psychology her interests, teaching, and approach in research not only draw from critical human geography but also from feminist studies, urban studies, anthropology, and sociology Deirdre is interested in supporting PhD projects that engage critical migration studies and carceral geographies.  

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Research Projects include

  • Detention Economies – with Dr. Deirdre Conlon (Leeds) and Dr. Nancy Hiemstra (Stonybrook, NY) (co-investigators). 

This project examines the conditions under which economies of exchange and explotiation develop and operate within migrant detention facilities. The project uses Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to investigate the social, political and economic implications of detention economies for different groups (detained migrants, facility operators, state governments and wider society) and focuses on detention centres in the metro New York/New Jersey area.

  • Research Matchmaking: Linking the demand and supply of research with migrants (2013-2014)

Dr. Deirdre Conlon (Leeds), Dr. Nick Gill (Exeter) (co-investigators), ESRC Knowledge Exchange Grant

This project developed an online architecture—specifically, a website and online forum for the exchange of ‘haves’ and ‘needs’ to connect the research needs of those in the migrant support community with the skills and interests of migration researchers. The site provided resources aimed at facilitating and navigating collaborative and participatory engagement practices.

  • Latino/a Engagement in Education Project (2012 –2013)

Deirdre Conlon (Saint Peter’s University, NJ), Professor David Surrey (Saint Peter’s University) (codirectors), William E. Simon Foundation funded

This community-focused project worked with community and religious organisations and local schools in Jersey City, New Jersey to facilitate Latino/a parent’s involvement in their middle and high school-aged student education; tasks included community outreach, development and implementation of workshops, seminars and ESL classes for parents and a mentoring program for Jersey City Latino/a youth.

  • Making asylum seekers legible and visible: An analysis of the dilemmas and mitigating strategies of asylum advocacy organisations in the UK and US (2010-2012)

Co-investigator with Dr. Nick Gill (Exeter) and Dr. Imogen Tyler (Lancaster), ESRC

This cross national US/UK research project charted the challenges and successes of community, non-profit organizations engaged in supporting asylum seekers and migrants held in detention centres. View the final report here.

Select publications:

Conlon D and Hiemstra N. (2022) ‘Unpleasant’ but ‘helpful’: Immigration detention and urban entanglements in New Jersey, USA. Urban Studies 59(11): 2179-2198.

Roast A, Conlon D, Garelli G and Waite L. (2022) The need for inter/sub disciplinary thinking in critical conceptualizations of displacement. Annals of the American Association of Geographers 112(3): 626-635.

Hiemstra N and Conlon D. (2021) Reading Between the (Redacted) Lines. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 20(6): 666-686.

Coddington K, Conlon D, Martin LL. (2020) Destitution Economies: Circuits of Value in Asylum, Refugee, and Migration Control Annals of the Association of American Geographers http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/156119/

Gill N, Conlon D, Moran D, Burridge A. (2018) Carceral circuitry: New directions in carceral geography Progress in Human Geography 42(2):183-204 http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/111319/

Conlon D and Hiemstra N. (eds) (2017) Intimate Economies of Immigration Detention: Critical Perspectives Oxford: Routledge. Publisher URL 

Moran D, Gill N, and Conlon D (eds.) (2013) Carceral Spaces: Mobility and Agency in Imprisonment and Migrant Detention. Surrey: Ashgate. For a review see Antipode Aug. 2013.




  • Deputy Head of School (Geography)
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • Ph.D. Environmental Psychology –The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Graduate Certificate Women’s Studies – The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Professional memberships

  • American Association of Geographers (AAG)
  • Gender and Feminist Research Group of the RGS-IBG

Student education


FOEV5002 Skills for Urban Sustainability – MSc (convenor)

GEOG 3290 Geographies of Global Insecurities

GEOG 3145 Sicily: Exploring the Migration Crisis – field course

GEOG 2005 Citizenship and Identity



Research groups and institutes

  • Social Justice, Cities, Citizenship

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>