Accessibility statement

Dr Alice M Nah
Senior Lecturer



Alice is a Lecturer at the Centre for Applied Human Rights.

She conducts research on the security and protection of human rights defenders at risk, and on asylum and migration in Asia.

She is the Principal Investigator of an international research project that examines how human rights defenders navigate risks, manage security, and receive protection support in Colombia, Mexico, Egypt, Kenya, and Indonesia. 

Alice has been invited by government and intergovernmental bodies to participate in dialogues as an independent expert on forced migration in Asia. She is part of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration, a process that brings together individuals from government, NGOs, policy and academic institutions and international organisations who act in their personal capacities to support the development of a more effective, durable and dignified approach to forced migration.

She is on the Advisory Board of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (serving as its Chair from 2008-2010) and is on the Board of the International Detention Coalition, and Protection International (serving as its current Chair). 

In 2009, the US State Department presented Alice with a TIP Report Hero Acting to End Modern Slavery Award.

Before joining CAHR, Alice held an Endeavour Cheung Kong Research Fellowship at Monash University, Melbourne; the President's Graduate Fellowship and postgraduate research scholarships at the National University of Singapore; and a visiting fellowship with the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford.

Alice gained a PhD and M.Soc.Sci. at the National University of Singapore. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Leeds as a Chevening Scholar.

Departmental roles

At CAHR, Alice convenes the MA in Applied Human Rights, and is a member of the Politics Graduate Taught and Research Committee.



I focus on two areas of research.

Security and protection of human rights defenders at risk

I am interested in how human rights defenders navigate the risks involved in their work, how they perceive and manage their own security, and how they collaborate with protection-oriented actors in the pursuit of their work.

I am interested in the construction and function of the multi-level international protection regime for human rights defenders. I am interested in what 'protection' means for human rights defenders, and how states and non-state actors (such as NGOs, donors, and civil society groups) collaborate to protect human rights defenders at risk.

Martin Jones and I collaborated with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, on a research projects that lead to his reports to the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.

Migration and Asylum in Asia

I am interested in the experiences of migrants and refugees in Asia, and how their lives are shaped by laws, policies and practices. I am interested in how state authorities, civil society groups, UNHCR, and non-citizens understand the place of migrants and refugees in Asian societies. I am interested in how 'protection' is understood, organised, and enacted by state and non-state actors.


I am interested in supervising PhD students in these areas.


Selected publications

Policy briefs

Nah, A.M. (2017) Wellbeing, Risk, and Human Rights Practice, Human Rights Defender Policy Brief 1 (PDF , 214kb), Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York: York.

Journal articles

Nah, A.M. (2016) Networks and norm entrepreneurship amongst local civil society actors: Advancing refugee protection in the Asia Pacific regionInternational Journal of Human Rights, 20(2), 223-240.

Nah, A.M. (2015) Critical perspectives on the security and protection of human rights defenders (with K. Bennett, D. Ingleton, and J. Savage), International Journal of Human Rights, 19(7), 883-895.

Nah, A.M. (2013) A research agenda for the protection of human rights defenders (with K. Bennett, D. Ingleton, and J. Savage), Journal of Human Rights Practice, 5(3), 401-420.

Nah, A.M. (2012) Globalisation, sovereignty, and immigration control: The hierarchy of rights for migrant workers in MalaysiaAsian Journal of Social Science, 40(4), 486-508.

Nah, A.M. (2011) (PDF , 5,655kb)‌ Legitimizing violence: The impact of public ‘crackdowns’ on migrant workers and refugees in Malaysia. Australian Journal of Human Rights, 17(2), 131-157.

Nah, A.M. (2008) Recognizing indigenous identity in postcolonial Malaysian law: Rights and realities for the Orang Asli (aborigines) of Peninsular MalaysiaBijdragen tot de Taal-, Lang- en Volkenkunde, 164 (2/3), 212-237.

Nah, A.M. (2006) Negotiating indigenous ‘race’/place in postcolonial Peninsular MalaysiaGeografiska Annaler B, 88(3), 285-297.

Nah, A.M. (2005) Ripples of Hope: Acehnese refugees in post-tsunami Malaysia (with T. Bunnell), Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 26(2), 249-256.

Nah, A.M. (2004) Counter-global cases for place: Contesting displacement in globalizing Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan Area. (with T. Bunnell), Urban Studies 41(12), 2447-2468.

Nah, A.M. (2003) Negotiating indigenous identity in postcolonial Malaysia: Beyond being ‘not quite/ not Malay’. Social Identities 9(4), 511-534.

Book chapters

Nah, A.M. (2015) Illegality and its uncertainties: Immigration detention in Malaysia. In Nethery, A. and S.J. Silverman (eds) Immigration Detention: The Global Journey of a Policy, Routledge.

Nah, A.M. (2014a) (PDF , 290kb)‌ Seeking refuge in Kuala Lumpur: Self-help strategies to reduce vulnerability amongst refugees. In Yeoh, S.G. (ed) The other Kuala Lumpur: Living in the shadows of a globalising Southeast Asian city, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 147-167.

Nah, A.M. (2014b) (PDF , 196kb)‌ The illusion of rights: Access to justice and the rights of non-citizens in Malaysia. In Misplaced democracy: Malaysian politics and people, Lemiere, S. (ed) Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Center, pp. 193-208.

Nah, A.M. (2007) Struggling with (il)legality: The indeterminate functioning of Malaysia’s borders for asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons. In Rajaram, P.K. and C. Grundy-Warr (eds) Borderscapes: Hidden Geographies and Politics and Territory’s Edge, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 35-64.

------. 2007. Promoting the Socio-economic Development of Migrants and Refugees in Malaysia. In Proceedings of the Conference on the Challenges of Global Migration and Forced Displacement: A Prelude to the High-Level Dialogues on International Migration and Development (HLD), Kuala Lumpur: United Nations. pp. 79-94. 

Nah, A.M. (2006) Names as sites of identity construction, negotiation, and resistance: Signifying Orang Asli in postcolonial Malaysia. In Lian, K.F. (ed) Reconceptualising Ethnicity in Singapore and Malaysia, Leiden: Brill, pp. 33-60.

------. 2006. Counter-global Cases for Place: Contesting Displacement in Globalizing Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan Area (with Bunnell, T.). In Y.S. Lee and B. S.A. Yeoh (Eds). Globalisation and the Politics of Forgetting, London: Routledge, pp. 153-174. 


Nah, A.M. (2010a) Strengthening refugee protection in South and Southeast Asia: The significance of civil society. Human Rights Defender 19(3):20-23.

Nah, A.M. (2010b) The role of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights NetworkRefugee Studies Forum 1:24-27.

Nah, A..M. (2010c) Refugees and space in urban areas in MalaysiaForced Migration Review 34:29-31.



MA in Applied Human Rights and LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice

Alice convenes the Defending Human Rights and Dissertation core modules, and coordinates the field trip to Malaysia.

External activities


Alice is a co-convenor of the British Sociological Association's Sociology of Rights Study Group.

Alice has completed a number of consultancy projects with human rights and humanitarian organisations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Labour Organisation, and Forum Asia.


Invited talks and conferences

Expert Meetings and Consultations

2016 and 2017. Meetings of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration; organised by the Centre for Policy Development, Australia, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, Thailand, and the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia.

2015. Jakarta Declaration Roundtable Meeting on Addressing the Root Causes of Irregular Movement of Persons; Jakarta, Indonesia; 27-28 November.

2015. Expert Roundtable on Onward Movement of Asylum-seekers and Refugees; co-organised by UNHCR and the Global Migration Centre, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies; Geneva, Switzerland; 1-2 October.

2015. Track II Dialogue on Forced Migration in the Region; organised by the Centre for Policy Development, Australia; Melbourne, Australia; 24-25 August.

2014. High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection at Sea, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland, 10-11 December.

2013. UNHCR’s Global Expert Roundtable on Temporary Protection, San Remo, Italy, 15-16 July.

2012. UNHCR’s Roundtable on Temporary Protection, San Remo, Italy, 19-20 July.

2010. UNHCR’s Consultation on Detention Issues, Bangkok, Thailand.

2009. UNHCR’s Consultation on the 10 Point Plan of Action, Bangkok, Thailand.

2007. High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges: Refugee Protection, Durable Solutions and International Migration, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland, 11 December.

Invited Presentations

2017. "Hierarchies of Deservedness: Rights, Nationalism, and Globalisation", Keynote Address at the inaugural workshop of the Centre on Global Migration, University of Gothenburg, 29 March, Gothenburg.

2017. "Rethinking 'Protection' and 'Security': A Critical Appraisal of the Human Rights Defender Protection Regime, presented at the Workshop on Understanding Human Rights in Practice organised by the Department of Sociology and the Human Rights Centre, 12 July, University of Essex.

2016. "Risks faced by Academics and Human Rights Researchers", presented at the Human Rights Researchers Network's Workshop on Strategies to Protect Human Rights Researchers and Academics at Risk, 9 December, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

2016. “Researching Forced Migration in South and Southeast Asia: Contexts, Obligations, and Ways Forward”, Keynote Address at the Workshop on South to South Migration, Refugees, and Diasporic Communities, 16-17 February, National University of Singapore.

2014. “Operationalising the Djibouti Model Framework”, presented at the High Commissioner’ Dialogue on Protection at Sea, 10-11 December 2014, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

2014. Roundtable on “The Malaysian Dream and the Future of Malaysia”, Southeast Asia Studies Symposium 2014 on “Southeast Asia in Transition”, 22-23 March, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

2013. “Activism in Academia: Challenges and Lessons”. Presented at the British Sociological Association’s Annual Conference, 3-5 April, London, United Kingdom.

2012. “Regional Cooperation in the Context of Mixed Migration Flows”, presented at the 4th Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights, 22-24 August, Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.

2012. “The Integration of Refugee: Examples from UK and Canada”, presented at the Conference on Government and Civil Society Cooperation to Protect Refugee Rights and Development, organised by Human Asia, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, and the Korea University Graduate School of International Studies, 21 August 2012, Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.

2012. “The ‘Hierarchy of Deservedness’: Dividing Practices, Identity, and the Rights of Non-Citizens”, presented at the Workshop on the Everyday Political Economy of Southeast Asia, 26 July, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom.

2012. “Immigration Control, Identity, and Rights: The Experiences of Foreign Spouses”, presented at the Workshop on New Ethnoscapes of a Cosmopolitan Malaysia, 7-9 June, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

2011. “Responding to Globalisation: Malaysia’s Differential Approach to the Integration of Different Categories of Migrant Workers”. Presented at the Workshop on Exit and Integration Strategies for Labour Migrants in South East Asia: Putting Principles into Practices, 28-30 November, Monash University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

2011. “The Significance of National Civil Society in Refugee Protection: Examples from the Asia Pacific Region”, presented at the 22nd International Summer School in Forced Migration, 25 July, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.

2010. “Civil Society and Refugee Protection in the Asia Pacific Region”, presented at the 21st International Summer School in Forced Migration, 19 July, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.

2010. “Is MSF Ignoring City Populations?”, presented at Médecins Sans Frontières Hong Kong’s Annual General Meeting, August 28, Hong Kong SAR, China.

Contact details

Dr Alice M Nah
Centre for Applied Human Rights
University of York
6 Innovation Close
Science Park
Heslington, York
YO10 5ZF

Tel: +44 (0)1904 325824

Office hours

Wednesdays 11:30-12:30 and Fridays 11:30 - 12:30

(Autumn term 2021)

For an appointment please email