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Dr Alice Nah
Senior Lecturer



Alice is a Senior 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.



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 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.



  • Human Rights & Wrongs in a Globalized World - POL00040I


  • The Practice of Fieldwork - POL00016M


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.

Alice Nah image

Contact details

Dr Alice Nah
Centre for Applied Human Rights
University of York
6 Innovation Close
YO10 5ZF

Tel: 01904 325824

Feedback and guidance hours, Online appointments (Spring term): Research leave