Professor Louise Waite

Professor Louise Waite


I am Professor of Human Geography and Director of Leeds Social Sciences Institute at the University of Leeds, UK. My research interests span critical migration studies, borders/ bordering and contemporary forms of slavery; with a particular focus on discourses of ‘modern slavery’, unfree/forced labour and exploitative work among asylum seekers and refugees.

I have published on these themes in a range of peer reviewed journals including Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Progress in Human Geography, Geoforum, Antipode, International Migration, Social and Cultural Geography, Emotion, Space and Society, Geography Compass, Gender, Place and Culture, Social Policy and Society; and in recent books: The Modern Slavery Agenda: Politics, policy and practice (with G. Craig, A. Balch, H. Lewis, Policy Press, 2018) Vulnerability, exploitation and migrants: Insecure work in a globalised economy (with H. Lewis, G. Craig & K. Skrivankova, Palgrave, 2015), Precarious lives: forced labour, exploitation and asylum (with H. Lewis, S. Hodkinson & P. Dwyer, Policy Press, 2014) and Citizenship, belonging and intergenerational relations in African migration (with C. Attias-Donfut, J. Cook & J. Hoffman, Palgrave, 2012).

Present position

  • Professor of Human Geography

Previous posts

  • September 2004 onwards: Lecturer, School of Geography, University of Leeds
  • June & July 2004: Working with the Centre on Migration, Policy & Society (Oxford University) on the effects of EU enlargement on low-wage migrant labourers
  • June 2003-May 2004: Freelance researcher and teacher in Overseas Development Group, University of East Anglia, Norwich
  • Jan 1999-Jan 2000: Research Associate in Overseas Development Group, University of East Anglia, Norwich working on DFID funded project 'From Work to Well-being'

Research interests

My research interests span migration, borders/ bordering and contemporary forms of slavery; with a particular focus on discourses of ‘modern slavery’, unfree/ forced labour and exploitative work among asylum seekers and refugees, and experiences of trafficking and related anti-trafficking discourses/ initiatives.

I am currently working on 2 ongoing and recent research projects (see below): the first looking at how volunteer organisations, the public and the police collaborate around modern slavery and coastal borders, and the second exploring faith-based and secular organisations’ growing role in anti-trafficking efforts to tackle modern slavery in England. I am also the Principle Investigator for Leeds Social Sciences Institute’s ESRC funded Impact Acceleration Account.

Broader research interests, and areas that I welcome PhD applications within:

  • 'Modern slavery' discourse
  • Unfree/forced labour and exploitative work
  • Critical security studies, surveillance and control across civil society and security agencies
  • Postsecular geographies and faith-based organisations
  • The concepts of 'precarity' in contemporary life worlds
  • The experiences of asylum seekers and refugees
  • Migration, migration governance, borders/ bordering
  • Citizenship and belonging
  • Integration and multiculturalism
  • Development geographies

Ongoing and recent research projects

  • ESRC funded (Vulnerabilty & Policing Future Research Centre) research entitled ‘Volunteers and vulnerabilities: the politics of policing partnerships’. Principle Investigator Alex Hall (University of York), Co-Investigator Louise Waite, Co-Investigator Hannah Lewis (University of Sheffield), Co-Investigator Sara De Jong (University of York). This research, running July 2024-June 2025, is exploring how police, volunteer organisations and the public collaborate around modern slavery and coastal borders. 
  • ESRC funded Impact Acceleration Account (IAA). Principal Investigator Louise Waite. The IAA (2023-2028, £1.25m) is enabling a step-change in the University of Leeds’ ability to deliver impact from our social science research.
  • ESRC funded research entitled 'Understanding the role of faith-based organisations in anti-trafficking'. Principle Investigator Hannah Lewis (University of Sheffield), Co-Investigator Louise Waite, Co-Investigator Emma Tomalin (University of Leeds). This research, beginning in April 2017 and running until April 2020, will be at the forefront of providing a deeper understanding of changes to the welfare state in neoliberal capitalist societies and the role of religion in the public life of secular societies by exploring how faith shapes anti-trafficking responses.
  • British Academy-Dfid funded research entitled 'Pulling a thread. Unravelling the trail of modern slavery in the fashion and textile industry'. Principle Investigator Hinrich Voss, Co-Investigator Louise Waite, Mark Sumner, Mark Davis (University of Leeds). This research, beginning in November 2017, is exploring how relationships between businesses and their (sub)contractors can be shaped to achieve impact in reducing the risk of modern slavery for workers in supply chains.
  • FABLE Research Collaboration Awards (held at University of Western Australia for WUN collaborations) ‘Better Legislative and Business Responses to Modern Slavery: Australia and United Kingdom’. PI F.McGaughey, Co-Is: L.Waite, M.Davis, D.Webb, D.Caspersz. $17,500 AUD. Jan 2019 – Jan 2020.
  • ESRC Trans-National Organised Crime Cross-disciplinary Innovation Grants (ES/P001483/1) £70,123. PI K. Allerfeldt, Co-I: L.Waite. ‘'Negating Humanity': Modern Slavery in its Historical Context and its Implications for Policy’. November 2016- May 2018.
  • ESRC Impact Acceleration Account award (Responsive Mode Impact Fund) from Leeds Social Sciences Institute. PI G.Alberti Co-I L.Waite, C.Forde. ‘Migration, equality and social cohesion: promoting inter-community dialogue in times of change’. Jan -Dec 2017.
  • White Rose Collaboration Fund. £10,000 Europe, migration and the new politics of (in)security. Sept 2016-Sept 2017.
  • ESRC Knowledge Exchange funded research entitled ‘Platform on forced labour and asylum’. Principal Investigator Louise Waite; Co-Investigators Stuart Hodkinson and Hannah Lewis (University of Leeds). The ESRC-funded project Precarious Lives: Asylum Seekers and Refugees' Experiences of Forced Labour (see below) produced the first conclusive evidence of forced labour among migrants in the UK asylum system. This project built a Knowledge Exchange Platform on Forced Labour and Asylum that developed strategies for tackling the existence of forced labour among refugees and asylum seekers, and ensured that the research is disseminated in ways that maximise its chances of having a positive impact on policy and practice. 2013-2014. 
  • ESRC funded research on ‘Precarious lives: asylum seekers and refugees’ experiences of forced labour.’ Principal Investigator Louise Waite; Co-Investigators Stuart Hodkinson (University of Leeds) and Peter Dwyer (University of Salford). This research project aimed to gain an in-depth understanding of the experiences of forced labour among asylum seekers and refugees based in England. 2011-2012.

Previous projects

  • WUN Research Development Fund: Addressing Multiple Forms of Migrant Precarity – Beyond “Management” of Migration to an Integrated Rights-Based Approach PI: N.Piper (University of Sydney), Co-Is, H.Lewis, L. Waite, S.Hodkinson (University of Leeds). 2014-2015.
  • WUN Fund for International Research Collaboration: International research network for the study of children of migrants: opening South-North dialogues. PI: R. Mas Giralt, Co-I: L.Waite, Co-I R. Vanderbeck (University of Leeds). 2014-2015.
  • White Rose Collaboration Fund. Migration and Economic Crisis: Responses of Brits at home and abroad. Co-Is: M. Kilkey, N. Lunt, L. Waite, A. Datta. 2012-2013.
  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation funded research to write a policy paper entitled ‘Status matters: forced labour and UK immigration policy’. Principal Investigators Louise Waite (University of Leeds) and Peter Dwyer (University of Salford); Co-Investigators Hannah Lewis (Freelance Researcher) and Lisa Scullion (University of Salford).
  • African migrants to Britain and France - British Academy Research Development Award. Principal investigator J.Cook (Leeds Social Science Institute, Leeds); co-investigator L.Waite (Geography, Leeds). This project compared the lived experiences of African migrants resident in Britain and France. The research focused on how different colonial histories and policies of migration shape the experiences and lives of African migrants. It examined the impact of migration and place upon the transmission of family practices, culture and tradition across generations, alongside the evolution of intergenerational relationships post-migration.
  • Leeds City Council funded research on 'New Migrant Communities in Leeds'. Co-researchers Joe Cook (Leeds Social Science Institute) and Prof Peter Dwyer (Nottingham Trent University). This qualititative research focused on the needs, experiences and expectations of A10 new migrant populations resident in Leeds, and their relationship with wider established host communities.
  • DFID-funded COMDIS (Communicable Diseases) project entitled ‘Increasing the effectiveness of Straight Talk Foundation Uganda programmes through qualitative research, especially in relation to vulnerable young women.’ In collaboration with Nuffield Institute of Health and Development, University of Leeds.

Research students

  • Rosa de Giralt – ESRC-CASE studentship, commenced 2007. Research entitled ‘Children and childhood in the new South American communities of the UK’. PhD awarded in 2011
  • Cath Conn – shared PhD student with Nuffield Institute of Health and Development, University of Leeds, commenced 2006. Research entitled ‘Sexual health amongst young women in Uganda’. PhD awarded 2011
  • Kristina Diprose – ESRC 1+3 studentship, commenced Sept 2009. Research entitled ‘Youth Activist Structures, Participation Poverty and 'Global' NGOs’. PhD awarded 2015.
  • Chawa Muverengwi – shared PhD student with Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies, University of Leeds, commenced Sept 09. Research entitled ‘Zimbabwe female led migration: A case for harmonising gender roles, responsibilities and sexualities?’
  • Kate Kipling – ESRC 1+3 studentship, commenced Sept 2010. Research entitled ‘Making British citizens: The role of citizenship ceremonies in integration, social cohesion and belonging
  • Emma Kerry – ESRC 1+3 studentship, commenced Sept 2011. Research entitled ‘Gendered experiences of asylum seekers: An exploration in to the ways gender is (re)constructed and embodied through the lived experience of those in the UK asylum process’
  • Iqbal Ahmed– commenced Sept 2014. Research entitled ‘Informal sector urban child workers in Bangladesh:  Their rights to participation and voice’.
  • James Grave – commenced Sept 2014. Research entitled ‘Volunteer Tourism in Uganda: Understanding the experiences of communities hosting volunteer tourism projects’.
  • Oguzhan Ozdemir - commenced Sept 2016. Research entitled 'The Armenians in the US: Place, identity and relationship with the 'homeland' of post-1965 immigrants'.
  • Nazli Onder - commenced Sept 2017. Research entitled 'Armenian nationalism in the context of Armenian diaspora networks'.
  • Yu Feng – commenced Sept 2017. Research entitled ‘Migrant food delivery workers in the platform economy of Shanghai, China.’
  • Aunam Quyoum - commenced Sept 2017. Research entitled 'British values education in the 21st Century: an interdisciplinary response for a critical global curriculum at Key Stages 2 and 3'.
  • Lauren Cape-Davenhill - commenced Sept 2019. Research entitled 'Foreign National Offenders in the UK'.
  • Aziz Yunus - commenced Sept 2019. Research entitled 'Conceptualizing prisoners as forced migrants and effectiveness of social networks among prisoners.'
  • Zeraslasie Shiker – commenced Sept 2021. Research entitled ‘Diaspora and transnational politics in the globalising world: A case study of the Eritrean diaspora in the UK’.
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • 2000-2003: PhD, School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia
  • 1997-1998: MA Gender Analysis of Development, School of Development Studies, Univ of East Anglia
  • 1993-1996: BSc (Hons) 1st class Geography, University of Durham

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="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>