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Department of Social Anthropology



Ben is currently working on a project about the growing field of ‘nonreligion’, especially in relation to asylum claims. The freedom to have, not to have, to practice or not to practice any religion is a fundamental right under international law. In south Asia, those who do not conform to or question the dominant religion may face serious problems, including persecution, forcing them to flee and seek asylum in other countries. Ben’s role in this ERC funded project—which includes a collaboration with three other European universities—sets out to understand the lived, legal and emotional experiences of those seeking asylum as they reach Europe. The study will investigate the assumptions that inform European countries’ responses to cases in which asylum is sought on the basis of claimants’ religious nonconformism. It will extend beyond south Asia and examine global implications of critical debates and actions that are taking place.


Previously, Ben researched emotions in men’s and women’s prisons. He completed an ESRC funded postdoc project (2019-2021) titled ‘Prisoner Emotions at the Margins: Understanding the pathways to destruction and healing among prisoners in solitary confinement’. The study explored the emotional dimensions of segregation units in England and Wales, based on ethnographic fieldwork in the segregation unit at HMP Whitemoor talking with prisoners and officers informally and conducting semi-structured interviews.


Peer Reviewed Articles

 Laws, B. (2021). Segregation Seekers: An alternative perspective on the solitary confinement debate. Punishment & Society


Jewes, Y., & Laws, B. (2020). Liminality Revisited: Mapping the emotional adaptations of women in carceral space. Punishment & Society

Laws, B. (2020). Reimaging ‘the Self’ in Criminology: Transcendence, Unconscious States and the Limits of Narrative Criminology. Theoretical Criminology, 1362480620919102.

Laws, B. & Lieber E. (2020). King, Warrior, Magician & Lover: Understanding expressions of care among male prisoners. European Journal of Criminology, 1-19.

Liebling, A., Laws, B., Lieber, E., Auty, K., Schmidt, B. E., Crewe, B., ... & Morey, M. (2019). Are hope and possibility achievable in prison?. The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, 58(1), 104-126.

Laws, B. (2019). The return of the suppressed: Exploring how emotional suppression reappears as violence and pain among male and female prisoners. Punishment & Society21(5), 560-577.


Crewe, B., and Laws, B. (2017) 'Subcultural adaptations to incarceration', in J. Wooldredge and P. Smith (eds.) The Oxford Handbook on Prisons and Imprisonment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Laursen, J., & Laws, B. (2017). Honour and respect in Danish prisons: Contesting 'cognitive distortions' in cognitive-behavioural programmes. Punishment & Society, 19(1), 74-95

Laws, B., & Crewe, B. (2016). Emotion regulation among male prisoners. Theoretical Criminology20(4), 529-547.

Laws, B. (2016). Fronting, masking and emotion release: An exploration of prisoners' emotional management strategies. The Howard League for Penal Reform

Laws, B. (Under Review). Researcher entanglements and the problem of evil. Qualitative Inquiry

Laws, B. (Under Review). The body and solitary confinement. Body and Society


Postdoctoral Research Associate, Religion and its Others in South Asia and the World (ROSA)

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