Great Lessons Learned from the 2nd Postgraduate Conference on Migration at University of Sheffield
By Somita Sabeti
Development Manager/Utvecklingsledare at Göteborgs Stad
Last week, I was given the great pleasure to present my paper at the 2nd Postgraduate Conference on Migration: Looking Beyond the Refugee Crisis at University of Sheffield, Panel 9 on theme: Integration and Belonging within the Refugee Experience.
More than 60 postgraduate and early career researchers attended the event, that showcased research of a multidisciplinary group of scholars from more than 20 universities. The conference was an effort in the direction of understanding the structural dynamics of migration, including topics such as migration governance, refugee and migrant integration, gendered experiences of migration and methodologies on migration research. It was an honour to participate, discuss and connect with other scholars in the same field of research, especially I found the critical contributions of the participants very fruitful.
One of the most valuable insights I took away from the conference is an issue that has puzzled me, and most migration scholars, I suspect for years: How can researchers address the ethical and methodological issues raised by migration research? How can we prevent physical and mental suffering of the study participants? Who is the migration research for, after all?
These issues were raised by Dr Nick Clare and Dr Marcia Vera Espinoza in Panel 4: Researching Migration; Reflecting on Access, Positionality, and Methodologies. It was very inspiring to listen to researchers asking themselves the hard questions: “In the course of my research, am I simply reproducing the same power structures which I am, in fact, seeking to challenge?”
Attending this panel made me learn that awareness is key in order to address the ethical questions in social science research and ensure the safety and well-being of the research participants. Before I enter into academics again, this is, therefore an issue, which requires some deeper thought. Will the social benefits induced by my future research be higher than the potential social harm? And, in what way will it improve the vulnerable situation of the participants?
Before I delve further into this issue, I would like to extend my thanks to the Migration Research Group at The University of Sheffield for doing an amazing job by putting together such an interesting conference. The day was topped off with a great talk by Alexander Betts, Director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, on refugees as political actors capable of challenging authoritarianism.
* This blog was originally posted here
What presenting at an academic conference means to me and why it reminded me of my seventh-grade hip-hop dance recital
by Meghan Casey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
University of Kent, Brussels School of International Studies
The first time I got on stage was to dance in tie-dye balloon pants to Outkast’s “Miss Jackson”. I was eleven years old and the scene truly didn’t feel as embarrassing as it does now, looking back. I remember my young self as being fearless. I think back and wonder how that awkward adolescent girl could wear what I wore, dance how I danced, and not have burned my parents’ video recording of the whole thing the first chance I got. Now some thirteen years later, I pace the halls of the University of Sheffield wondering if I can muster the same courage in front of this very different audience.
When I submitted my abstract for consideration, I did not expect a reply. I was thrilled, to say the least, (and a little confused) when I received the email notifying me that my paper had been accepted (by mistake?), so much so that I forwarded the news to my entire family in Canada. When the novelty of actually being accepted to something wore off, I realized I had to talk. About stuff. To people.
Migration studies is new to me. Having studied interdepartmentally during my five-year undergraduate career, my academic history now reads as a hodge-podge of interests – linguistics, journalism, Spanish, Italian studies, creative writing, etc. Each seemingly unrelated interest actually became more relevant as I pursued graduate studies. I became invested in the field of human rights and migration studies because the people I met along the way were influential, encouraging and, to be frank, super cool – plus, they came from all different backgrounds and experiences.
The conference for me was much more than having my ideas heard. The thing is, I wasn’t just talking about stuff and I wasn’t just talking about it to just any people. I was contributing to an ecosystem rife with talent, creativity, and camaraderie. My fellow conference-goers weren’t the stuffy academics I had let my imagination run off and create. They were individuals passionate about learning and sharing their knowledge (even with rookie master’s students like me).
This last year I have tried to take advantage of all the opportunities studying at a British university has to offer. One of the most important things I have learned from this experience is that allowing your peers to mentor you through seemingly traumatizing public speaking events is worlds more valuable than remaining tucked in tight to your comfort zone. #MigrationSheffield was truly an event to be remembered and one I would recommend to any other motivated first years out there who struggle to muster the same courage they did in their tie-dye-inspired youth.
I look forward to seeing you all next year!