• Being outside Afghanistan, Afghan Migration

Being outside Afghanistan

An interdisciplinary workshop exploring everyday experiences of social becoming, self‐construction and resource mobilisation among Afghans abroad

Keynote speakers

Kristian Berg Harpviken

Kristian Berg Harpviken is the Director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and holds a PhD in Sociology.

Harpviken is a long time student of Afghanistan and the surrounding region. His main research interests are wartime migration, transnational movements and mobilization, regional security and the dynamics of civil war.

He is a frequently used media commentator, and lectures regularly to both scholarly and popular audiences. He is author of Social Networks and Migration in Wartime Afghanistan (Palgrave MacMillan, 2009), and (with Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh), A Rock Between Hard Places: Afghanistan as an Arena of Regional Insecurity (Hurst, 2016).

Alessandro Monsutti

Alessandro Monsutti teaches at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. He has conducted multi-sited research since the mid-1990s in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran to study the modes of solidarity and cooperation mobilised in a situation of conflict and forced migration.

He has subsequently broadened the geographical scope of his research to include Afghans asylum seekers and refugees in Western countries. This led him to analyse war and post-conflict reconstruction in the light of the social networks and economic strategies developed by refugees and migrants, and – more generally – to address theoretical and methodological issues related to globalisation. Among his current research interests: the political economy of reconstruction in Afghanistan as an example of emerging forms of sovereignty and global governance; asylum seekers and refugees in Europe; migrants and non-migrants in urban neighbourhoods; the changing nature of borderlands in Europe and South Asia.


Khadija Abbasi

Khadija Abbasi a PhD candidate in Anthropology and Sociology of Development at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. She holds a BA in English Persian translation from Tehran’s Islamic Azad University and an MSc in Gender and Development from the London School of Economics. Her research is an auto-ethnographic account of her refugeehood as well as her community (Hazaras of Afghanistan) in Iran, Afghanistan and the UK.

She has worked for various local and international NGOs in Iran, Afghanistan and Britain. She also works as a researcher for a joint research project (the Graduate Institute, University of Zurich and Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) on Uzbek communities in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan). She has just finished her field research among Uzbeks of Mazar-e Sharif (Northern Afghanistan), focusing on their interethnic relations.

Elaine Chase

Elaine Chase is a Senior Lecturer (Education, Health Promotion and International Development) at University College London Institute of Education.  Her teaching and research, both internationally and in the UK, focus on the sociological dimensions of health, wellbeing and rights of individuals and communities in many different settings and in particular those most likely to experience disadvantage and marginalisation.

She is currently Principal Investigator on the ESRC ‘Becoming Adult’ Project, researching the wellbeing outcomes of former unaccompanied migrant children and young people as they turn 18 in the UK.

Melissa Kerr Chiovenda

Melissa Kerr Chiovenda is a PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of Connecticut. She will defend her dissertation, which concerns civil society activists and collective history and trauma among Hazaras in Bamyan, Afghanistan, in early September. This project entailed 18 months of fieldwork in Afghanistan.

Currently, she is in Athens, Greece starting a new research project with Afghan asylum seekers and refugees. From fall 2016, Melissa will teach anthropology at Emerson College in Boston, and will be a research fellow at Harvard University’s Department of Social Medicine and Global Health. Melissa holds an MA in Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies from Georgetown University. She has been published in journals such as Central Asian Survey, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, and South Asian Survey.

Prior to academia, Melissa was a high school teacher in Los Angeles and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Robert Crews

Robert Crews teaches in the History Department at Stanford University (USA). He is the author of Afghan Modern: The History of a Global Nation and co-editor, with Shahzad Bashir, of Under the Drones: Modern Lives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands and co-editor, with Amin Tarzi, of The Taliban and the Crisis of Afghanistan.

Carolin Fischer

Carolin Fischer is a post-doctoral researcher at the ‘Laboratory of Transnational Studies and Social Processes’. She works on a project titled ‘Gender as a Boundary Marker in Migration and Mobility: Case studies from Switzerland’. The study forms part of the National Center of Competence in Research ‘The Migration-Mobility Nexus’ (http://nccr-onthemove.ch/home/).

Prior to joining the University of Neuchâtel Carolin completed a DPhil in Development Studies at the University of Oxford. Her doctoral thesis is about the lives and civic engagements of Afghans in Germany and the UK. Drawing on a qualitative case study it shows how Afghans living in these two countries relate to Afghanistan, and to what extent they engage in transnational action aimed at promoting change there. In particular, it explores the emergence of diasporic communities and how their members exercise agency when taking different forms of (transnational) civic action. Carolin’s areas of interest are processes of diaspora formation and diaspora-home country relations. She approaches these topics from a sociological perspective focusing on relationality, intra- and inter-group boundaries and relations between structure and agency.

Marieke van Houte

Marieke van Houte is a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Oxford’s International Migration Institute. Her research focuses on migration in the context of development, change and conflict. She specializes in migration from (post-)conflict countries, return migration, transnational (political) engagement of migrants, and processes of structure and agency in mobility.

Methodologically, she aims to contribute to improved and innovative qualitative and mixed research methodologies in migration studies. Marieke completed her PhD on return migration at Maastricht University in 2014, mainly based on fieldwork among Afghan voluntary and involuntary return migrants. She holds a BA (2005) and MA (2006) in Cultural Anthropology and Development Studies from Radboud University Nijmegen. Before joining IMI, Marieke worked on migration and development for academic, non-governmental and international organizations.

Her research has taken her to diverse research settings around the world. Her book Return Migration to Afghanistan: Moving Back or Moving Forward? will be published by Palgrave MacMillan in December 2016.

Esra Kaytaz

Esra Kaytaz is a Research Associate at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University working on migration. Esra holds a PhD in Social Anthropology and an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Oxford. In her doctoral thesis ‘The Resigned, the Restless and the Resilient: Risk Perceptions among Afghan Migrants in Turkey’, Esra applied anthropological theories of risk to the analysis of migratory decision-making processes of Afghan migrants in Turkey.

Esra has researched and published on immigration detention and alternatives to it, migrant journeys, survival migration and migrant regularization programs in Europe. Esra’s work experience includes being a research officer at Global Migration Governance Program at Oxford and a legal advisor at the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly in Turkey.

Nassim Majidi

Nassim Majidi is an Affiliate Researcher at Sciences Po’s Centre for International Studies, specialising in return migration. She teaches a graduate course on Refugees & Migration as part of Sciences Po Lille’s Conflict and Development Programme.

Nassim is the Co-Founder of Samuel Hall, a think tank of the Global South, where she leads evidence-based research and policy development on migration and displacement. Covering three continents (Africa, Asia, Europe) over the past ten years, her crosscutting skills have led her to interview refugees, migrants and returnees in border areas, conflict settings and countries of origin and transit. She has developed strategic programmes, national policies on migration, and monitoring reviews that have had a lasting impact.

Nassim was nominated in 2015 by the Norwegian Refugee Council for the Nansen Refugee Award in recognition for her work on behalf of Afghanistan’s displaced population. Nassim holds a BA in Government from Cornell University, a Masters in Development Studies and a PhD in International Relations from Sciences Po Paris.

Giulia Scalettaris

Giulia Scalettaris is Lecturer in Migration Studies at the University of Lille and Researcher at the Global Migration Centre. She holds a PhD in Anthropology (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Paris) and a Master degree in International Relations (University of Trieste, Italy).

Her research interests include the refugee regime, migration, humanitarianism, bureaucracy and expertise. Her doctoral dissertation, entitled “The international refugee regime in the making. Bureaugraphy of the UNHCR in the Afghan crisis”, analyses the intervention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the Afghan crisis and examines the ways this organization exerts authority in the contemporary world. The thesis is based on a fieldwork of observing participation carried out within the UNHCR’s offices in Geneva and Kabul between 2006 and 2008.

Previously she worked on Senegalese migration in Italy, doing fieldwork at the interface between migrants and local institutions. Beside her academic experience, she worked with several international and non-governmental organizations (such as the UNHCR, MSF, Cimade, Caritas, Amani) in Kenya, France, Switzerland and most of all in Afghanistan.

Liza Schuster

Liza Schuster is a Reader in Sociology at City University London. Since 2008, she has worked with Afghans in Paris, and made her first visit to Afghanistan in 2011. She has just returned from three years’ fieldwork there, based at the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University, examining what happens to those who are deported and working to support young scholars in Kabul. She previously worked at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at Oxford University and as a T. H. Marshall Fellow at the London School of Economics, working on a comparative project that explored processes of inclusion and exclusion in four European states: Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

She has offered critiques of access to the EU, British, French and Greek asylum systems, and developed a focus on deportation. She prepares expert reports on Afghanistan for Immigration tribunals and contributes to debates on migration in a number of countries. She continues to enjoy the privileges of a strong Afghan friendship network in Paris and around the world.

Marjan Wardaki

Marjan Wardaki is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her dissertation, tentatively entitled: Cross-Cultural Exchanges: The Flows of Ideas between Germany and Afghanistan, 1919-1945, examines the educational flow of ideas between Afghanistan and Germany. Borrowing from global and microhistorical approaches, Marjan is interested in tracing the production, dissemination, and transformation of ideas and identities through the medium of cultural interchange.

Marjan has received training in both South Asian and European history. She has obtained her BA and MA in Middle Eastern History from the University of California, Irvine.

Thomas Wide

Thomas Wide received his DPhil in Afghan cultural history from Oxford University in 2014, with a dissertation titled ‘The Refuge of the World: Afghanistan and the Muslim Imagination, 1880-1922.’ From 2012 to 2015 he was the Managing Director of Turquoise Mountain, a cultural heritage NGO based in Kabul, Afghanistan.

He is currently based at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, the Smithsonian’s museum of Asian art in Washington D.C., where he recently curated an exhibition on artisan practice in Afghanistan.

Morwari Zafar

Morwari Zafar is a PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of Oxford. Her research examines the role of the Afghan-American diaspora in cultural knowledge production for counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan. She has worked in security and international development, and is currently a fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington DC.


Sneha Krishnan

Sneha Krishnan is a cultural historian and anthropologist of gender and youth in South India. She is currently a Junior Research Fellow at St John’s College, Oxford and is writing a book titled ‘Making Ladies of Girls’ about college education and ethical life in the city of Chennai. Her work has recently appeared in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Ceri Oeppen

Ceri Oeppen is a Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Sussex and a Global Fellow of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). Ceri’s research explores ways in which migrants adapt to the new environments in which they find themselves, with a special interest in the interactions between transnationalism and integration.

Her current research focuses on return migration, having worked with colleagues at PRIO on the Possibilities and Realities of Return Migration (PREMIG) project. Ceri’s particular expertise is in researching the experiences of Afghan asylum seekers and refugees living in Europe and North America, and those who have returned to Afghanistan.

Zuzanna Olszewska

Zuzanna Olszewska is Associate Professor in the Social Anthropology of the Middle East at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, and a fellow of St. John’s College. She holds a DPhil in Social Anthropology and an MSt in Forced Migration from the University of Oxford. She specialises in the ethnography of Iran and Afghanistan, with a focus on Afghan refugees in Iran, the Persian-speaking Afghan diaspora, and the anthropology of literature and digital cultural production.

Her recent book, The Pearl of Dari: Poetry and Personhood among Young Afghans in Iran (Indiana University Press, 2015), is an ethnographic inquiry into how poetic activity reflects changes in youth subjectivity in an Afghan refugee community, based on fieldwork with an Afghan cultural organisation in Mashhad, Iran. Her current research is an ethnographic exploration of Afghan diasporic social media and its relation to the homeland.

She has taught anthropology at Oxford and the LSE, and is a translator of Persian-language Afghan poetry.

Nicholas Van Hear

Nicholas Van Hear is Deputy Director of the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS). He works on migration, mobility and immobility, development, conflict, refugees, diaspora, transnationalism and related issues, with field experience in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Europe.

Before joining COMPAS on its launch in 2003, he held posts at the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford (1990-2000) and at the Danish Centre for Development Research in Copenhagen (now the Danish Institute of International Studies) (2000-2003).

His books include New Diaspora: the mass exodus, dispersal and regrouping of migrant communities (London: Routledge, 1998), The Migration-Development Nexus (Geneva: International Organisation for Migration, 2003), and Catching Fire: containing forced migration in a volatile world (Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006).