Shameful Start to Shakespeare 400: Dr Paul Hamilton Arrested and Held by UK Immigration

Paul Hamilton profile

Dr Paul Hamilton

[UPDATE: Dr Hamilton released after 10 days]

My friend and frequent Kingston Shakespeare collaborator, Dr Paul Hamilton (a US citizen), was arrested on the afternoon of January 17, 2016 at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon by the West Midlands immigration team from Sanford House in Solihull. He was eventually taken to the Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre near Lincoln, where he is still being held.

Two reasons were given for Dr Hamilton’s arrest: firstly, removal from the UK was imminent (he was later notified that he needs to leave the country by February 1, 2016); secondly, he does not have enough close ties (‘family or friends’; the arresting officer underlined ‘family’) to make it likely that he will stay in one place.

There are many things wrong with this situation but let us focus on three central issues.

First, Dr Hamilton was not illegally in the country. He had applied to the Home Office for further leave to stay in the UK in a completely legitimate way. Why is he being treated like a criminal?


Dr Hamilton at Garrick’s Temple during the Shakespeare and Scandinavia conference

Second, Dr Hamilton’s arrest coincided with the immigration team notifying him that his application for further leave was denied. It was only during his arrest and subsequent detention that he was handed the documents pertaining to the denial. The date of this decision was December 9, 2015. Why was Dr Hamilton or his lawyer, Theresa Okogwa, who was hired to represent him in this matter, not notified of this decision? Why the wait? One reason could be that the Home Office were about to change the rules about appealing their decisions and wanted to strong arm Dr Hamilton to follow the new rules which necessitated him to appeal from outside the UK. Third, the absurdity of him being a flight risk: Dr Hamilton has spent nine years in the UK building up a professional network alongside his studies and research, all of which would be thrown away if he were to act illegally and go into hiding. Even his application for further leave to stay in the country was based on a human rights appeal as he had spent these years building the network of professional contacts. One result of this is his central involvement in the Kingston Shakespeare project, where he has organised conferences and seminars. Assessing Dr Hamilton to be a flight risk is an unjust and unfounded claim.

The arresting officer’s emphasis on ‘family’—in the section that deals with flight risk that states ‘family OR friends’—seems to effectively suggest that only ‘family’ can be considered a mitigating factor for flight risk!?

Effectively, the legitimate process of application is being criminalised. Dr Hamilton had done nothing wrong or illegal nor was he accused of doing anything wrong, yet he was arrested and is STILL being detained a week after his arrest, despite people writing on his behalf and standing as surety for him. Moreover, he paid £650 for his application and also hired an attorney to help with the process as well as buying in July 2015 an open date return ticket (worth $1200) in case of the denial of his application – all of which resulted in his wrongful imprisonment. He is being treated like a criminal for making a legitimate and costly application.

With 2016 being the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, these alarming actions perpetrated by UK immigration officials against a Shakespeare scholar starts this year of celebration in a deeply unsettling way.


Dr Hamilton listening to Jeffrey Knapp at the Rose Theatre

Dr Hamilton received his doctorate from the Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham) graduating in July 2015. At the time of his arrest he was preparing an application to funding bodies for his project on a cultural history of katharsis as a medical and aesthetic concept with the support of Professor Richard Wilson (Kingston University). This process has seriously been hindered by the actions of the Home Office. Meanwhile, although Dr Hamilton is continuing to write his application after having to petition for pen and paper, he is still unable access any of his research (he was allowed to take his tablet containing a significant amount of that research with him upon arrest but he has not been granted access to it). Not only is the timing of these actions by UK immigration deeply ironic and harmful to Dr Hamilton’s career but they also reveal the precarious situation in which non-EU immigrants and Early Career Researchers find themselves.

All this after spending nearly a decade in the country without any trouble, enriching its research culture by contributing countless hours of unpaid academic work to arranging and assisting in conferences, seminars, and publications. Moreover, Dr Hamilton alone has contributed easily over $150 000 to the economy with tuition fees.

As was pointed out to me, the Shakespeare Institute, where Dr Hamilton studied, was founded partly as an effort to build a special relationship between the US and the UK. In fact, Shakespeare Studies in general could be seen through this lens. There is a very strong interlinking of American and British scholars and scholarship in the SAA, BSA and ISA, and, of course, the annual invitation-only conference at the Institute was founded upon Anglo-American cooperation. Dr Hamilton and his scholarship is situated centrally in this international cooperation.


Introducing Shakespeare and the State of Exception

Adding to the irony of Dr Hamilton’s situation, he was the main intellectual thrust in organising a conference on Shakespeare and the State of Exception (read or listen to it here) which theorised and discussed exactly these exceptional powers the sovereign state has over its subjects in standing both inside and outside the law it enforces. Dr Hamilton now gets to experience those powers in practice—but he won’t be defeated by them.


Alongside the support from his friends and colleagues, the Stratford-upon-Avon Member of Parliament Nadhim Zahawi is making representations on Dr Hamilton’s behalf. Moreover, Times Higher Education have interviewed him for this piece on the situation as has and BuzzFeed News. Now The Times has written a piece as has the Independent and the Daily Mail. Also an open letter was sent to The Times.

Nevertheless, Dr Hamilton’s case is only one of many and there are even more blatant infractions of civil liberties and human rights done in the name of the UK government. Will the people who decide on and carry out these infractions ever be held accountable for their actions? What kind of state is the United Kingdom if it condones these kind of actions?

Written by (Paul’s friend and collaborator),

Timo Uotinen, PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London.

With support from:

Dr Patricia Alessandrini, Lecturer in Sonic Arts, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Martin Anderson, Toccata Classics/Toccata Press
Dr Elizabeth Andrews, PhD, School of English, University of St Andrews
Amalia Arvaniti, Professor of English Language and Linguistics, University of Kent
Megan Archer, University of Brighton
Gerald Baker, independent scholar
Julia Bard
Helen and Jose Barrios
Alice Bondi
, Retired Psychotherapist
Amy Bonsall, Freelance Theatre Director and Associate Artistic Director of Bilimankhwe Arts
Andrew Bowie
, Professor of Philosophy and German, Royal Holloway, University of London
Mimi Bowron
, student, Shakespeare Institute
Kate Begley BSc PGCE
Delilah Bermudez Brataas
, Assistant Professor in English, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Dr Alex Bellem, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University
Dr Mark Berry, Senior Lecturer in Music, Royal Holloway, University of London
William Blount, Reader in English, Liceo Classico, Forli, Italy
Karin Brown, Shakespeare Institute Librarian
Sarah Brown, UCU Branch Secretary
Andrew Brownell, DMusA from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama
F.W. Brownlow, Professor Emeritus, Mount Holyoke College
Niels Brunse, author and translator, Denmark
Dr John Buckingham
Thea Buckley
Lorna Burslem
Christopher Bussell, 
past Vice President SU and past Vice President and Life Member of the Fellows, Ruskin College Oxford
Professor Maurizio Calbi, Department of Humanistic Studies, University of Salerno, Italy
Ramsey Campbell, Honorary Fellow in Literature, Liverpool John Moores University
Domenico Cannizzaro, a classical tenor
Dr. Colin Cavendish-Jones, Assistant Professor, City University of Hong Kong
Dr Douglas Chalmers, President, UCU Scotland
Professor Elaine Chalus, Bath Spa University
Dr Daniel Chernilo, Reader in Social and Political Thought, Loughborough University
Marie Clausén, Art Historian, Ottawa, Canada
Richard Coldman
Dr Chris Collins, Senior Lecturer in Music, Bangor University
Dr. David Conway, Honorary research Fellow, Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London
Patrick Cook, PhD candidate in Classics, University of Cambridge
John Cowan
Karen Wills Cunningham
Joseph Curdy
Judith Curry
, student, Shakespeare Institute
Dr Stephen Curtis, Part II Tutor/Associate Lecturer, Lancaster University
Chikukuango Cuxima-Zwa, MPhil, PhD, Brunel University London
Michael Davies
, Gillingham, Kent
Tom Deveson, teacher and director of Shakespeare in London schools
Chris Diming, PhD Candidate, Durham University
Professor Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute
Sian Drinan
Jane Frances Dunlop, MPhil/PhD Candidate, University of Brighton
Dr Leila Edwards (British Citizen based in the UAE), Principal, Transformations Institute, Global NLP Licensed by the Society of NLP
Jude Orlando Enjolras, poet, University of Birmingham librarian and graduate
Santiago Xavier Espinosa, PhD Candidate in Archaeology, University of Edinburgh
Nick Evans, doctoral candidate, University of Oxford
Sally Evans
Declan Farrell
, director of R&D companies in both Sweden and U.S.
Joe Farrell
Dr Anna Fenemore, Associate Professor in Contemporary Theatre and Performance
Director of Research and Innovation, School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds
Ewan Fernie, The Shakespeare Institute
Douglas Finch, Professor of Piano and Composition, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London
Kenneth Young Founder, Director Artists Project Earth NGO for halting fossil fuels emissions and raising awareness for climate change
Dr Bradley L Garrett
Boris Gaydin
, Candidate of Philosophy, Moscow University for the Humanities
Dr Lia Genovese, Lecturer, Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand
Alice Gibson
, PhD student, Kingston University
Eugene Giddens, Skinner-Young Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature, Anglia Ruskin University
John Gillies, Professor in Literature, University of Essex
Dr Patricia Gillies, University of Essex
Andrea García González, University of Brighton
Frances Gray
Johann Gregory, Research Associate, Cardiff University
Ingrid Grueso, PhD candidate, Durham University
Zachary Guiliano, doctoral candidate, University of Cambridge
Vinayak Das Gupta, Postdoctoral fellow, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland
Peter Hallward, Professor of Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University
Julia Hamilton, DPhil candidate in Oriental Studies, University of Oxford
Helen Hargest, Former Archive and Imaging Coordinator at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Lana Harper, PhD student, University of Sussex
David Hastie, musician, retired teacher of literature and Shakespeare
Professor Eric Heinze, School of Law, Queen Mary, University of London
Andrew Henderson, Stratford resident
Tom Hickey, Principal Lecturer in Philosophy and Critical Theory, School of Humanities, University of Brighton
Dr Adrian Hilton, Educationalist, Oxford University; RSC Alumnus
Dr Andy Higginbottom, Associate Professor, Chair of the Kingston University branch of UCU, University and College lecturers Union
Dr Chris Horrocks, Associate Professor, Kingston University
Lorna Hutson, Berry Professor of English Literature, School of English, University of St Andrews
Tim Huzar, University of Brighton
Dr Anders Ingram, Postdoctoral Researcher, National University of Ireland, Galway
Marie-Jeanne Jacob
Julian Jacobson, Professor of Piano and Chamber Music, Royal College of Music London and Birmingham Conservatoire,Chairman, Beethoven Piano Society of Europe
David Jones, Former Lecturer in Trade Union Studies
Dr Frauke Jurgensen, Department of Music, University of Aberdeen
Dr Anne Karhio, Postdoctoral Fellow, National University of Ireland, Galway/University of Bergen, Norway
Rosie Keep, doctoral student, University of Birmingham
Sara Kernohan
Sara J Kerr
, PhD student Maynooth University, Ireland
Helen Kidd, writer, critic and editor
Dr Thomas Koentges, University of Leipzig
Marija Krnic
, PhD candidate Theatre studies, University of Warwick
Kati Laasonen
John Langdon, doctoral candidate, Shakespeare Institute
Dr Anthony Leaker, Lecturer in Critical and Cultural Theory, University of Brighton
Gah-Kai Leung, Department of History, University College London
Patrick Levy, doctoral candidate, University of Sussex
Samantha Lin, international PhD candidate, Queen’s University, Belfast
Arthur Lindley, Hon. Fellow, Shakespeare Institute
Georgie Lucas
Mairi Macdonald
, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Birmingham
Agathe Majou, MA student, Shakespeare Institute
Doyeeta Majumder
, Teaching fellow at the School of English, Edinburgh University
Vladimir Makarov, Associate Professor, St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia
Michelle Manning, PhD student at Anglia Ruskin University
Rachel Mariner
James J. Marino, Associate Professor of English, Cleveland State University, USA
Alice Martin, editor and translator
Dr Annie Martirosyan, Shakespeare Institute alumnus
Jane McColl, teacher, St. Andrews, Scotland
Kathleen McCreery, playwright and theatre director, former senior lecturer (assoc.) at the Universities of Northumbria and Sunderland, counsellor
Ciaran McDonough, PhD scholar, National University of Ireland, Galway
Emer McHugh, doctoral candidate, NUI Galway
Una McIlvenna, Lecturer in Early Modern Literature, University of Kent
Erin McLaren, BS, California State University, Fullerton
Dr Patricia McManus, Senior Lecturer in Media and Literature, University of Brighton
Tornike Metreveli, Doctoral Researcher, University of Bern, Switzerland
Dr Marije Michel, Lecturer for Language Learning and Teaching, Lancaster University
Dr Hollie Morgan, Research Fellow, University of Lincoln
Kate Mueller, MA graduate, The Shakespeare Institute
Dr Tamjid Mujtaba, UCL Institute of Education
Dustin Neighbors, PhD student, University of York
Karen Nicholls
Sheila North

Richard Nunn
Richard O’Brien
, Shakespeare Institute PhD researcher
David Owen, Professor of Politics and International Relations, University of Southampton
Dave Paxton, doctoral candidate, The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham
Dr Vanessa Pupavac, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham
Thomas Pfau, Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of English, 
Professor & Chair of Germanic Languages & Literatures, Duke University
Anna Ilona Rajala, doctoral candidate, University of Brighton
Pauline Randall, Managing Director Florizel Media Ltd
Dr. Ned Richardson-Little, Department of History, University of Exeter
Jacqueline Roberts, concerned British Citizen, Estepona, Spain
Nancy Rogan, MA candidate, The Shakespeare Institute
Dr Jamie Rogers
Elina Salin
, a Shakespeare fan and an activist
Duncan Salkeld
, Professor of Shakespeare, University of Chichester
Christina Sandhaug, Hedmark University College, Norway
Professor Jennifer Saul, Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield
Stephanie Schnabel, translator and SI alumna, Germany
Barry Schwabsky, art critic, The Nation
Dr Mike Searby, Kingston University UCU Branch Secretary
Dr Keith Seddon, author and activist
Deirdre E Shaw MA
Dr Rupak Shrestha, EdD, Brunel University
Dr Natasha Simonova, University of Cambridge
Norval Smith, Guest Researcher, Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC), University of Amsterdam
Dr Stephanie Spoto, PhD Edinburgh University, Lecturer, Humanities, California State University Monterey, USA
Francisca Stangel, Doctoral Candidate, University of Kent
Barry Stocker, Assistant Professor, Istanbul Technical University
William James Summers
Zoe Sutherland, doctoral researcher, University of St Andrews
K Valerie Swift, former MA student at the Shakespeare Institute
The Bard of Tysoe
Chris Traynor
Adam Trettel

Timothy Trimingham Lee, theatre director
Dr Sara L. Uckelman, Department of Philosophy, Durham University
Sean Wallis, UCU NEC and UCL
Sonia Arias Valtuille
Jean Noel Vandaele
Rebecca Warren-Hayes

Erin Weinberg, doctoral candidate, Queen’s University, Canada
Sara Marie Westh
Alex Whiteley, Shakespeare Institute Graduate
Dr Lesley Whitworth, Deputy Curator, University of Brighton Design Archives
Dr. Jeroen Wijnendaele, Associated Post-Doctoral Researcher, Ghent University
Jay Wilkinson, retired Director, Brunel University Arts Centre
Dr Brian Willis, MA 2003, Ph.D 2008 Shakespeare Institute
Jeff Wilson
Mark Wilson
, PhD student at the University of Roehampton
Richard Wilson
, Sir Peter Hall Professor, Kingston University
David Melville Wingrove, Tutor in Literature and Film, University of Edinburgh
Adele Winston, LL.B(Hons)
Dr José Carlos Marques Volcato, Associate Professor of English Language and Literatures at the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil
Mick Woods, Musician
Martin Young, doctoral candidate, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Nikolay Zakharov, the Academic Secretary of the Shakespeare Committee of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Clas Zilliacus, Professor Emeritus, Åbo Akademi, Finland

If, in support of Paul, you wish to have your name added to this, please email me at timo.uotinen(at) or comment below.

Update 11.37 Jan 25 2016: Paragraph about the Shakespeare Institute and US – UK relations added. Notice of Times Higher Education piece added.

Update 14.15 Jan 25 2016: On suggestion anonymised funding bodies as not to hinder the application process.  14.51: Pictures added. 19.31 link to Times Higher Education added.

Update 23.36 Jan 26 2016: Added links to articles from news outlets.

About Timo Uotinen

Timo Uotinen is a Finnish PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London working on Shakespeare and philosophy - more specifically on Baconian philosophy, Shakespearean tragedy, and ethics.
This entry was posted in News, Thinking through Shakespeare and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

133 Responses to Shameful Start to Shakespeare 400: Dr Paul Hamilton Arrested and Held by UK Immigration

  1. Dr Rupak Shrestha, EdD, Brunel University says:

    Please add my name to your supporter’s list. Its shameful act of the Home Office. It seems to be ridiculous that the HO treats equally between a genuine scholar and a criminal. Moreover, in the case of Dr Hamilton, HO is absolutely wrong if he was arrested without a prior information of refusal of his application.
    Dr Rupak Shrestha


  2. Kate Begley says:

    Extraordinary, outrageous story. What on earth is happening to this country????

    Kate Begley BSc PGCE


    • Lou Coatney says:

      Very simply, you [plural] have sat back and allowed your country to be taken over, and you should instead be out and legally and politically active to take it back.

      Again, if Paul and his attorney were not sent legal notification of his denial, then there is justification (considering his/Shakespeare’s interest in government exceptionalism within Britain) to suspect it was deliberately, illegally withheld … and that is grounds for Crown Prosecution Service investigation and prosecution.


  3. John Cowan says:

    I have no credentials except a love of Shakespeare and a love of liberty, but please add me to your list.


  4. Pingback: Dr Paul Hamilton Released | Kingston Shakespeare Seminar

  5. Please add me to the list.


  6. Richard Coldman says:

    I support Dr Hamilton.


  7. Marije says:

    Please add my support – a ridiculous procedure!
    Dr Marije Michel, Lecturer for Language Learning and Teaching, Lancaster University


  8. Marie-Jeanne Jacob says:

    please add me to the list


  9. Sian Drinan says:

    Please add me to Dr Hamilton’s list of supporters…reading his story makes me fear for the future of this country.. Shame on the Home Office.


  10. Please add me to the list and let us know what we can do to help. I would suggest direct action at this point.


  11. Niels Brunse says:

    I sent this as an e-mail yesterday, but let me repeat it here:

    I participated recently, as Dr Hamilton did, in the conference on Shakespeare and Scandinavia in Kingston, and the warm atmosphere and open exchange of ideas was stimulating for my work and my understanding of Shakespeare as a part of the cultural heritage of the whole world. No one will benefit from a deterioration of this spirit of collaboration, and the way Dr Hamilton has been treated is certainly a blow to the development of this generous scholarly environment. Please add my name to the list.

    Niels Brunse, author and translator, Denmark


  12. silibrarian says:

    Please add my name to the list of Dr Hamilton’s supporters. We’ve all been so shocked and horrified by this turn of events. We’re so glad Paul has been released but we want to do our best to give him the opportunity to stay in the UK. Any further support or evidence needed then do get in touch. Karin Brown, Shakespeare Institute Librarian


  13. jennysaul says:

    I’d be happy to add my name to this, and to any other statements of protest regarding Dr Hamilton’s treatment. I’m Professor Jennifer Saul, Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield.


  14. Pingback: Open Letter on the Detention of Dr Paul Hamilton | Kingston Shakespeare Seminar

  15. Please add me to your list. It might be worth looking


  16. a sparrow says:

    I do not believe the law-abiding should have to fear the law. Please add me to your list. And thank you for keeping us posted.
    Agathe Majou, MA student, Shakespeare Institute


  17. Boris Gaydin says:

    Please add my name: Boris Gaydin, Candidate of Philosophy, Moscow University for the Humanities


  18. Please, add me to the list: Dr. Nikolay Zakharov, the Academic Secretary of the Shakespeare Committee of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Ph.D.


  19. Lorna Hutson says:

    please add my name:

    Lorna Hutson
    Berry Professor of English Literature,
    School of English,
    University of St Andrews


  20. Pingback: Arrest, Imprisonment, And Bare Life In A State of Emergency | Kingston Shakespeare Seminar

  21. Pingback: Dr Paul Hamilton held at UK border and sent to Iceland | Kingston Shakespeare Seminar

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