Dr William Wheeler

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

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I carried out my PhD research in the Aral Sea region of Kazakhstan, where I traced how the sea's dramatic regression over the second half of the twentieth century, and its recent partial restoration, have been entangled with the demise of state socialism and Kazakhstan's postsocialist transformation - thus complicating images of environmental disaster for which the region is famous. I explored these issues by looking at the fluctuating fortunes of the fishing industry over time, tracing the social lives of fishes within Soviet and post-Soviet Kazakhstan.

My current project, 'Seeking asylum in the UK: An ethnography of destitute lives ruled by paper', based on research in Manchester, explores how people who are seeking asylum in Britain seek to move forward with their lives while, on the one hand, caught up in complex legal and bureaucratic processes that can extend for years, and, on the other, facing destitution or surviving on extremely limited state provision. I explore these questions through engaging with various activist organisations in Manchester.


  • environment, Aral Sea, Kazakhstan, disaster, migration, asylum seekers, fisheries

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