ISRF Early Career Fellow 2022-23
ISRF Early Career Fellow 2022-23
Alexandra Hall is Associate Professor in Criminology at Northumbria University, Newcastle. She has an interdisciplinary background, having studied for a BA in Politics, MA in International Political Economy and PhD in Sociology. Her research and teaching interests integrate approaches from across these disciplines to better understand a wide range of contemporary criminological issues.
In 2022, Alex will begin working on her ISRF Early Career Research Fellowship ‘The Freeport Paradox’. The project builds on her previous research on global illicit product markets and flows (in pharmaceuticals, cocaine, tobacco, and counterfeit goods) to advance interdisciplinary knowledge of the criminogenic dimensions of special economic zones (SEZs), with an empirical focus on the UK’s new freeports. The UK government recently announced the creation of eight new freeports as part of their post-Brexit ‘levelling up’ agenda. Designed to boost economic growth by offering special regulatory measures and business incentives, the zones are being touted as hubs of global trade and investment that will bring about job creation and regional regeneration. However, evidence from freeports and other SEZs around the world suggests that such legal-spatial strategies present a range of economic, social and environmental challenges. From their implication in the global flow of illicit goods, through examples of indentured labour, environmental degradation and elite tax evasion, SEZs are key conduits of crime, harm and corruption in the global economy. Further analysis of their potential for facilitating various forms of crime and harm is therefore desirable to inform appropriate regulation and advance conceptualisation as the model evolves.
The Freeport Paradox is a pioneering interdisciplinary study of the UK’s freeports during the first stages of their implementation. It will address the following questions:
1. What are the spatial and temporal dynamics of the global SEZ model?
2. How are freeports designed and through what institutional support do they gain traction?
3. What forms of crime, harm and corruption does the global SEZ model tend to engender, and will the UK face similar social and environmental challenges?
4. How will channels of cooperation between key stakeholders and publics take place in the UK’s freeports? Are new partnerships and institutional arrangements needed to effectively (re)regulate the zones?
The project aims to advance both interdisciplinary academic work and foster cross-sector collaborations and policy recommendations in this important emerging area. This includes the design and dissemination of a penetrative conceptual framework for researchers and a set of regulatory measures for policy makers, practitioners and publics. The methodological approach draws together and critically evaluates both official accounts and the voices of community members and activists to offer a holistic picture for policy intervention. This will involve triangulating data from previous work on global illicit markets, a critical review of the interdisciplinary academic and grey literature, and in-depth interviews with stakeholders and community members living and working in and around the UK’s new freeports.