Helen Brewer is an activist and architectural researcher. Her work investigates the humanitarian border, economic and social abandonment and community infrastructures. Helen's work searches for a "new" mode of care subject to the terms of solidarity and its practice of a relational ethics.
Helen co-leads the MA City Design studio on Border Environments with Riccardo Badano. She aims to critically reflect and expand on how research can and should be sustained by engagement in political struggle. She is involved in grassroots organising for climate justice and border abolition.
Helen is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths University of London. She holds a Master’s with Distinction in Interior and Spatial Design from Chelsea College of Art & Design, University of the Arts London.
Helen's research investigates the evolving contours of the punitive state which outsource and expedite distinct and affective forms of clandestine coercion; violently, intimately and routinely in the everyday lives of migrants. Interrogating the intimate psycho-socialities of (non) belonging expressed in institutionalised isolation and exclusion. Helen's work is grounded in feminist and decolonial ethnographic fieldwork and conceptual engagements with affect theory, solidarity ethics, critical geography and abolitionist politics.
Migration, care, solidarity, infrastructure, community,
Current and recent projects
Helen is an AHRC Doctoral Partnership Researcher at Autonomy, where she leads critical inquiry into the migrant care economy using feminist ethnographic research, spatial analysis and data mapping. (November 2022 – April 2023).
Helen is also a member of the ERC-funded research project the Topological Atlas based at the School of Architecture, TU Delft. (October 2019 – ongoing)
Helen is committed to the dismantling of global apartheid and building collective struggles for justice. Part of this obligation is sustaining the need for an 'everyday practice of undoing borders', by understanding systemic injustices, both widespread and hidden, and building transnational solidarity and political friendships. This is fuelled by a shared politics that aspires to recognise the oppressive and exploitative structures both visible and invisible within the research.
Her practice utilises a combination of ethnographic and activist-based research methodologies and spatial tools to build upon a radical pedagogy in border studies. Through continued political engagement in border struggles, Helen is interested in producing a method of working to question how we "do" research in solidarity "with" participants, in order to challenge the border operating on multi-scalar levels.
Helen regularly collaborates with NGOs, legal practitioners and grassroots networks working in migrant and climate justice. She is active in anti-detention and anti-deportation struggles in the UK and abroad and is a member of Detained Voices, a collective which facilitates testimony from inside immigration detention.
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
Brewer, Helen, "Carceral Witnessing and the Spatial Imagination" in Contemporary Representations of Forced Migration in Europe, eds. Beatrice Ivey and Fiona Barclay, Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture, and Human Rights. (forthcoming)
Aviation strikes: Direct action at Heathrow, City and Stansted. A roundtable discussion with activists involved in aviation strikes, Soundings 78, (2021): 172-188. https://doi.org/10.3898/SOUN.78.15.2021
Brewer, Helen, "How to stop a Deportation Flight", published on June 1st, 2022, antiAtlas #5 | 2022, online, URL: www.antiatlas-journal.net/05-brewer-how-to-stop-a-deportation-flight
Brewer, Helen, "Victory for the Stansted 15: No deportations! No borders!", The Socialist Lawyer, June 2021.
Brewer, Helen, "An Architecture of Resistance", JAWS: Journal of Arts Writing by Students, Vol 2, No 1, (May 2016): 29-34.
Tamlit, Ali, Helen Brewer, Laura Clayson and Nick Sigsworth, "The Stansted 15 Have Won – What Can We Learn From Their Four-Year Legal Battle?", Novara Media, February 4 2021.
Brewer, Helen, "Liberty Without Borders", DOPE Magazine, November 11 2018.
"The intimate interiors of everyday bordering: Navigating architectures of temporality, compliance and contingency in the asylum regime", COVID-19 and Home: Symposium, Museum of Home and Queen Mary University of London, 24 - 25 Nov 2021.
"Floating Asylums and Detention Islands: Speculating Post Brexit Britain and Carceral Genealogies of Border Architecture", Border as Speculative Infrastructure: Between probabilities and possibilities, Royal Geographical Society Conference, August 31 - September 3 2021.
"Hostile Environments Conference", Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and United Voices of the World Legal Sector Workers Union, October 24 2020.
"From Prevent to Deportations: State Violence Against the Other", SOAS University of London. December 5 2019.
"Borders, State Violence and Civil Disobedience", King’s College, University of Cambridge, March 8 2019.
"F.fwrd.f: Transnational Feminism; Queering Bodies and Borders", University College London, February 8 2019.
Podcasts and Public Talks
"Border Nation" by Leah Cowen in conversation with Micha Frazer-Carroll and Helen Brewer, Pluto Press Live Book Launch and Webinar, March 18 2021.
"Illegal/Legal Migrants" with Helen Brewer of Stansted 15", Breaking Binaries by Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, August 4 2019.
CHASE-AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership October 2019 – September 2023
AHRC studentship awarded to outstanding graduates undertaking doctoral research, includes annual stipend, training and development and research funding for 3 years.
Dean’s Award, Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London September 2015
College prize awarded to highest performing student in each course.