About me

A painting by Maxwell who I met on Labadi Beach, Accra, Ghana in 2019

I’ve spent nearly 30 years of my life as a researcher and writer, most recently leading one of the world’s largest migration research projects. My work has brought me into contact with thousands of people around the globe… people who have chosen to leave their own countries to live elsewhere, people who haven’t, and others in between.

I love travelling to new places, meeting new people and seeing beautiful things. I get very excited by food and its potential to connect people, places and ideas, which is why I write another blog called es ne tekrema which is all about food…food being grown, food being sold, exchanged and traded, food being chopped, steamed, boiled and roasted and of course, food being eaten!

The purpose of this blog however is rather different.

It’s about creating a space to reflect on the issues I come across in my day to day work – most frequently related to issues of migration, identity and belonging – in more space than afforded by my Twitter account and without the long-winded and painful process of writing articles for academic journals. I often have views on things about which I would not, by any stretch of the imagination, consider myself to be an ‘expert’, but where I believe there is potential to connect some of my perspectives with the work and ideas of others in a way that takes us all to different, hopefully better, places. In that sense at least these musings are often deeply personal. They provide an opportunity, at the very least, for me to order my thoughts, to download ideas from a brain which increasingly feels burdened down by the weight of information and that is desperately trying to find ways to ‘join up the dots’ across the deeply interconnected yet simultaneously disconnected worlds in which we find ourselves.

Most recently I’ve discovered poetry to be an effective way of downloading my ideas, not least because poems often capture the underpinning emotions and feelings rather than being rooted in the materiality of people and place. Sometimes I feel able to say more in a short poem written in a matter of minutes than I can in a blog over which laboured to reference the evidence, almost as a way of legitimatising what I think or feel. There is a place for that of course: as a researcher I believe deeply in the importance of generating in-depth knowledge and robust evidence that goes well beyond anecdote and hearsay. But over the past three decades I have come to learn that so often what people think and feel about migration, identity and belonging has far more to do with their own position and sense of self than it does with any external factors. This pretty much renders my referencing efforts meaningless! People either get it or they don’t. And both are fine. But trying to persuade, encourage and cajole people into feeling more comfortable and at ease with the changes they see around them isn’t the role of this blog – and nor do I want it to be. If you want to read my more formal academic outputs then you can do so elsewhere. This blog is much less formal but hopefully still interesting, perhaps more so.

Feel free to engage with my musings and share some of your own. There are no right answers to any of this complicated stuff!

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