Slow and Small Victories: Getting an Academic Paper Published

Academia is not a place for fast turnarounds. Last week, I reached a milestone which was the result of intense efforts starting 13 years ago when I first decided to apply for a Ph.D. position in migration studies at the University of Ghana. Now, this milestone quietly appeared as an automated email among many in my inbox. The communication indicated that the first paper out of my thesis had been published in a peer-reviewed journal!

Find the paper in full (open access) here: Student migration aspirations and mobility in the global knowledge society: The case of Ghana

The journal is called the Journal of International Mobility and is a French journal – I just love how abstract and bio is also available in another language. It is also an open-access journal meaning researchers and others can read it for free and download /télécharcher it as it is not behind a paywall. I found it as they were publishing work on academic mobility, international student migration and I thought it could be a good fit.

What does it mean to publish a paper?

This means a section of my research is now available for easy consumption and critique. That means I am part of a global conversation about my topic, much more than if I only left results in my 300+ page dissertation (PDF). In this paper, I chose to focus on my quantitative data (two more papers out of my thesis yet to be published have a more qualitative focus drawing on focus groups and interviews) on student migration aspirations.

Morover, I contextualize the situation for student migrants out of the global south – unequal access to higher education, under- and unemployment after graduation, hardship acquiring visas to further studies abroad, the global knowledge society where student migrants provide 3% of trade in services in the OECD. I explain how Ghana is a good case study with outmigration among highly skilled close to Africa’s average and high levels of graduate unemployment. I review the international student migration (ISM) literature and suggest students from the global south are understudied. I ask: “Do students from the global south aspire to be mobile? Are they mobile? How do they experience the global knowledge society?” With survey data from 467 Ghanaian students I respond to these questions and find that (quoting from the abstract, or summary):

…the students aspire to migrate, mostly for educational reasons. However, many of these students also aspire to return, others to live transnational lives, and one in twelve students surveyed are not interested in migrating—that is, in leaving Ghana for more than one year. These results show that university students in Ghana often imagine their future at home, but their life strategies include graduate school and gaining work experience abroad. Hence, mobility, but perhaps not necessarily migration, is a central feature of their life aspirations.

What does it really mean to me to publish a paper?

Emotionally, the email and publication shook me to the core. It has been such a long ride and now this seems…small?

Late nights transcribing interviews, tabulating survey data. Versions of this paper dating back to 2017. Having a colleague critique and then rewriting the paper. Getting it rejected once. Getting many comments on what is now the published paper, but pressing through. It was hard until the end, too… The final edited version I had to correct twice (a misunderstanding meant the copyeditor needed the changes in a different format). The emails sent to ask for an update on the process.

Now, I had the email blinking a URL at me on the screen with a “published” in a sentence next to it.

Was this it?

Cheers to a published paper! Photo: Eliza K.

After a drink with my husband to celebrate, and this email to tell you all, I am pressing on with other slow, thoughtful, and important scholarly work. But after taking a few weeks of vacation!

Read more about my Ph.D. project on its website StudentMigrationAspirations.com

Tema Life: Beind the scenes of shooting the documentary

For the Ghana Studies Association conference with the theme “Ghana as Center”, I decided to make a dream come true and make a documentary about my hometown for 12 years – the city of Tema.

The film “Tema Life: City of the Future” will be presented in a panel about Tema – the city that geographically is the center of the world.

The panel is in Room 1 at 2.30-4pm on Friday 12 July, 2019.

Here is my writeup about the documentary:

The city of Tema was planned and constructed in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a central part of Ghana’s modernization project. Buildings and areas were purposely designed for industrial, residential or business purposes according to the modern planning ideas of the time as well as socialist ideology. Original inhabitants were moved. The industrial model town was populated by foreign and local workers. By 1960 the city and surrounding areas had 25 000 inhabitants and ten years later just shy of 100 000. The industrial model town had various industries: textiles, radios, soap, motor vehicles, food stuffs, cigarettes and so on and was populated by foreign and local workers. The city was constructed “to be the city of the future” (Ahlman, 2017).

Tema was politically and economically central – in addition to purposely geographically constructed in the Greenwich meridian before it hits the ocean. Later political and economic pressures, including geopolitical changes and the growth of Ghana’s nearby capital Accra and its industrial areas and Tema became peripheral.

This project seeks to collect narratives from the first dwellers in Tema in a documentary film. Young laborers in 1960 would today be in their 80s and hence the time is running out to capture their oral histories about Tema then and now. The narratives will focus on what work, leisure, shopping was like during the early days of Tema and offer Tema’s first inhabitants a space to reflect on how it has changed. Building on the Nana Project by Kirstie Kwarteng that seeks to collect oral histories in Ghana, the conversations will be professionally filmed and the output will be a short documentary and a journal article analyzing their oral histories about the center of the world, Tema.

The team behind the film is scholar Kajsa Hallberg Adu, PhD and filmmaker Mantse Aryeequaye who bring together knowledge of Tema and of documentary film in Ghana. Mantse is a cultural producer and filmmaker perhaps best known for his championing of the street art festival Chale Wote in Accra. He is however also a longtime music and film producer who has worked all over the continent with companies such as MTV, Studio 53, Moonlight Films in Capetown, The Africa Channel, and currently serves as director of Reddkat Pictures and as the co-director of AccraDotAlt.

 Ahlman, J. S. (2017). Living with Nkrumahism: Nation, State, and Pan-Africanism in Ghana . Athens, OH, US: Ohio University Press.

My story up on the PhD Career Stories Podcast

Kajsa is holding a mic.
Photo: OP studios

Do you want to know…. what a morning in my home office sounds like?

What I did when I wanted to quit the PhD program?

How activism and teaching are very good companions to research?

…and what I did after completing my dissertation and finally sleeping properly again?

Yes? Then what are you waiting for? Tune into my story on the PhD Career Stories Podcast.

Sabbatical or Time to Think, Read, and Write

I am lucky enough to work in a sector where there is a tradition to allow a block of time every 6-7-8 years of employment to focus on research. The time has come to me and this spring, Jan-May, I will be 100% focused on thinking, reading, and writing.

It is exhilarating – so much potential! – and scary. I am worried I will somehow squander the time, get derailed by emails, or just get less productive when the walls of structure that I am used to are gone.

Three weeks into the sabbatical, I am still a bit worried, although have read much more research already than I did all of last semester, and asked senior colleagues for help and guidance. I am also walking more, both to lessen the anxiety and to think better. But should I continue to work from my house with all distractions that come with it or should I find an office space away from home? For now, I am taking up colleagues on their offers of co-writing sessions and paying a short-term visit to a research environment in Sweden for focus and inspiration.

Potential Outputs

  • I hope to finish four papers that are almost (some just halfway) done and send them off to academic journals (and attend fewer conferences and workshops). 
  • I also want to publish shorter texts with more popular outlets (and write fewer emails and blog posts). 
  • I also hope to read more, especially classic texts like Nkrumah and Mamdani but also new ones, especially on decolonial theory and higher education, as well as monographs by researchers I know and aspire to write like (and do fewer lists of books and articles I should read). 
  • I want to do two-three sets of interviews to deepen projects already started (and not only rely on previous data I have collected)
  • I want to apply for research funding (and not think too much about what I am teaching next). 
  • Finally, I want to relax my body which has patiently supported a four-hour daily commute for years!

What would you do if you had five months of work time to plan yourself?

My #2016bestnine on Instagram

Last year I increased my presence on Instagram and ended up with 244 posts which were liked a whopping 6971 times! Thank you!

(and if you are not part of the 800+ people who follow me yet, I am @KajsaHA there too!)

You apparently like:

  1. Me graduating with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in African Studies from University of Ghana
  2. Me taking a selfie with an umbrella and a yellow Ginko Biloba tree at the Mall in Washington DC (steps away from where people did NOT assemble for someone’s inauguration last week)
  3. My daughter Ellen zipping up my dress.
  4. Smiley husband and I on a night out at the National Theatre.
  5. An intimate sibling embrace.
  6. Girls being silly in new swim caps.
  7. Garden marvels (it is palm nut kernels!).
  8. Long shadows on one of the shortest days of the year.
  9. Live broadcast technology that allows my mother in Sweden to follow my graduation in Ghana (see #1)

Comment on what you want to see in 2017!

 

Summing up the Blogging Year 2016 – From VR to #GhanaDecides

What a year!

I started a project on virtual reality in the classroom with colleague Kabiru Seidu. I taught Social Theory and Written and Oral Communication.

I had my PhD viva and graduated. Whew!

I brought my readings and my kids to the blog which celebrated 10 years.

I was interviewed on a podcast and featured by Pulse in a video and wrote an article for a major Swiss newspaper (I am Swedish, not Swiss, so this I think is an achievement!)

I traveled to Dakar, Cape Coast, Sweden (twice, writing from an amazing xmas get-together in the cold just now!), Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.

The world experienced Grand Bassam, Trump, Seinabo Sey, and Ghana its election.

Now I need to rest and come back in full force next year! See you in 2017! 

Graduation and my CV of Failures

screenshot-2016-11-19-17-45-15doctorkOn Friday, I got my poofy hat which signifies that after five years of study, I have been awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in African Studies. You have heard a lot about that already (and if you haven’t, its all here on the blog under the category PhD).

However, what you have not heard about is all the failures that led up to my PhD graduation. Here I am inspired by Princeton Professor Johannes Haushofer’s CV of Failures (PDF) (in turn inspired by Melanie Stephan’s article in Nature), who both argue that keeping and sharing a CV of failures can inspire others to be reminded that you have to just try again.

When starting to think about it, I see CV’s of failure everywhere. In my favourite Netflix Show, Chef’s Table the amazing chefs that cook the best food in the world all had to overcome obstacles and fail repeatedly.

When I recently read comedian Amy Schumer’s book with the hilarious title: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, she devotes a chapter to “how to become a comedian” and it reads similar to an academic CV of failures. She did smaller gigs, sometimes so small that she had to find the audience herself on the street first, for 10 years before her break-though.

My favourite poet Wislawa Szymborska, also has some critical words on all the things a conventional CV hides (rediscovered courtesy of QZ): Preparing a Curriculum Vitae. She says:

“Write as though you have never talked with yourself.”

So, yes on Friday I wore a poofy hat and made it look simple. It wasn’t. So I will now talk to myself and to you and say: Here is my (likely incomplete) CV of Failures or Curriculum Mortem. Hopefully, it can inspire you to both keeping track of your own failures as well as when you fall, dusting yourself off and jumping in again.

 

CV OF FAILURES

Degree programs I did not get into

2010 PhD Economic Geography, Lund University

2009 PhD African Studies, University of Ghana (I was told my application was lost. I resubmitted the next year).

2007 PhD Political Science, Uppsala University

2003 Politices Magister, Uppsala University (I ended up getting the degree never the less but having to reapply every semester).

2002 BA, Stockholm School of Economics

Jobs I interviewed for but did not get…(Most of job applications got no response. However two jobs come to mind where I got to the interview stage, did fine – or at least that’s what I thought- , but still did not get the job).

Bank Switch Ghana, 2008.

Swedish National Audit Office, 2007.

Academic positions and fellowships I did not get

2013 Global South Workshop – a perfect workshop that would have given me a network and valuable input at the exact right time in my PhD.

2013 REMESO Workshop – A specialist workshop in my specialist field of migration aspirations organized in my home country of Sweden.

2013 Nordic Africa Institute PhD visiting scholarship (but despite not getting the money, I was invited for a one-month stay which I funded myself)

 

Awards and scholarships I did not get (or sometimes it does not help to apply again)

2013 Fredrika Bremer Förbundets Stipendiestiftelse

2012 Gemzeus Stiftelse

2011 Fredrika Bremer Förbundets Stipendiestiftelse

2011 Gemzeus Stiftelse

Research funding I did not get (most research funding I was not eligible for as belonging to the unusual group of Swedes in Ghana, hence I only applied to this one and did not get it).

2011 Codesria Small Grant

Conferences I was rejected to

ASA 2015 for the panel  “Migration and Belonging in Ghana and Abroad.” (was later accepted for a general panel)

ECAS 2015 for the panel the panel “Epistemology of research on migration : the contribution of African studies” and “International migration and organised forms of collective resistance to barriers for entry and stay: perspective from Africa”. Yup, I applied to two and got none.

Migration Research Center at Koç University (MiReKoc), Istanbul, 2014

ECAS 2011

 

But hey, I jumped in again. That is what brought me to the poofy hat!

doctor-jump

 

Kwame Anthony Appiah gives the 2016 BBC #ReithLecture

This year´s BBC Reith Lecture is given by philosophy professor Kwame Anthony Appiah. As you can possibly tell from his name, he hails from Ghana and is his lecture series he heavily draws from this – something for all of us who love Ghana to feel proud of and learn from.

Two lectures have already been aired (I wholeheartedly recommend listening to the podcasts). The first two of the total of four lectures cover Creed and Country. The last is to talk about Culture. The third lecture was recorded in Accra some two weeks ago and I was there! It was a Saturday and I happily tweeted:

The lecture with the tittle Mistaken Identities: Colour used the amazing true story of William Anthony Amo, a Ghanaian boy who became professor of philosophy in Germany in 1738, as its red thread (I also mention him in my dissertation!) and discussed race with nuance and insight. He spoke about the “racial fixation” and reminded us there is no such thing as race, really.

Afterward, there was an opportunity to ask questions and I was thinking of something my daughter had told me…when the host of the evening asked women present to add their voices to all the men asking questions, my hand went up.

Afterward when the Ashesi staffulty present took a photo with Prof. Appiah we were reminded that he also sits on the board of the university!

2016-10-15-20-30-10-2

If you want to find out if my question made it to the final cut of the 2016 Reith Lectures with Kwame Anthony Appiah, tune into BBC Worldservice, Channel 4 or the podcast today!

The PhD journey: the Viva

IMG_0267
PhD Viva. Photo: Jeffrey Paller

On Thursday 28th April in the morning, I did a 40 minute presentation of my dissertation “On a course to migrate? Migration aspirations among University Students in Ghana” and took questions for another 40 minutes or so. After a brief adjournment by the examiners, the verdict was in: I had passed.

Now there are some formal steps left, like making corrections in the final documents, and trying out a silly hat, but if they run smoothly, I am looking forward to graduation on July 23rd. This year!

The feeling at this point is one of great happiness and relief, pride and exhaustion. Happy to have completed well. On the day, I got into the presentation and just flowed, despite being nervous – almost cripplingly so –  the weeks and days leading up to the presentation. ( I did a mock viva two weeks earlier that I think I did not do well in, so I’d say I know the difference between flow and just making it thru). On the day, the questioning part also went well, save a few stumbling answers to unexpected questions.

I am grateful for all the people that have been supporting me in this transformative journey over the last 5 years. I am proud of myself for making it over all the hurdles and trying tasks. I am exhausted and try to be kind to myself.

I did it.

group
With colleagues and supporters in the graduate seminar room just after my presentation.

med dorcas
Relieved and happy after the viva with my student Dorcas who came to support me!

Summarizing the ASA2015

asa friendsSo, I am back from the intense African Studies Association 58th Annual Meeting in San Diego, California, US 19-21 November, 2015!

It is difficult to summarise such intense days, but I would say my main goals were met:

  1.  getting some feedback on my research. CHECK
  2. meeting with other researchers, both interested in Ghana and in migration and higher eduction. CHECK and some awesome, smart and funny ones that I think will remain friends for life!
  3. tweeting and Periscoping! CHECK, periscoped a convo on Afrobarometer and Prof Adomako Ampofo’s speech. Also used the nice conference app to share info within the conference!
  4. learning more about publishing and post-doc opportunities. CHECK, wrote some follow-up email today!
  5. finding books and initiatives in the exhibit that accompanies the conference. CHECK omg CHECK
  6. experiencing some art and maybe good food in the world-reknowned Balboa Park in San Diego. CHECK
  7. meeting up with other African Studies tweeps. CHECK

What I did not get to do was eating great hotel breakfast (the breakfast buffet was not included, shock of the trip!) or really see the city of San Diego as there was really no time.

What I did do that was not on my list was: challenge my fear of heights, both in Balboa Park and on the 12th floor of the nice hotel, and eat crickets! (Tangy, crunchy, and salty!)

 

Open Doors Report: The Value of International Students

As I am writing this is, I am following the Institute of International Education launch of the Open Doors International Student report via Periscope! The report is a yearly affair that chronicles data on incoming and outgoing students for the United States of America.

Generally, international students have increased, both in- and outbound. And it is expected to double in the next 10 years! Inside Higher Ed has summarised the report.

One of the outstanding facts from this year’s report is the NAFSA tool that takes a stab at calculating the gains of international students (likely significant as the State Department funds the Open Doors reports…) and comes up with the number of $30,5 billion as well as 135000 direct jobs and 238 indirect jobs from the same 975000 international students.

Looking a bit closer at this data, the economic benefit includes tuition and living expenses.

Screenshot 2015-11-16 16.04.50

Jobs are reported from the following sectors: higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, telecommunications, transportation and health insurance, see distribution below.Screenshot 2015-11-16 16.05.44

It is important international students are described as a positive, as most of them are financed by themselves or family, however I think the NAFSA tool could be more generous and include also innovation gains in the financial model, as well as entertainment and state jobs (diplomatic officers etc) for the benefitting job sectors.

I wish the Open Doors report was replicated by Association of African Universities for Africa as the Americans have showed that international students come with wealth, and attracting them is beneficial both in terms of direct finances and jobs. And, do I dare say, innovation and possibly even more? 

Tables from NAFSA.

Read more on my research on Ghanaian student migration aspirations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopes for African Studies Association meeting, ASA 2015, in San Diego

So by this time next week, I’ll be on my way to the big African Studies Association 58th Annual Meeting, ASA2015, in San Diego, California, USA. The conference has the theme: The State and the Study of Africa and will be happening 19-22 November. It is an enormous event which attracts over 2000 scholars! I am terribly excited and have the following hopes:

  1.  getting some feedback on my research. I am presenting a paper in a panel called: Rethinking Decolonialization: Institutions, Archives and Identities (Session VII- D1, Fri 20th, 2-3.45pm). My paper is how university students in Ghana and their narratives can help decolonializing migration studies.
  2. meeting with other researchers, both interested in Ghana (as under the Ghana Studies Association meeting scheduled for Fri 20th at 7.30pm) and in migration and higher eduction.
  3. tweeting (follow me on @kajsaha) and Periscoping!
  4. learning more about publishing and post-doc opportunities.
  5. finding books and initiatives in the exhibit that accompanies the conference.
  6. experiencing some art and maybe good food in the world-reknowned Balboa Park in San Diego.
  7. meeting up with other African Studies tweeps, see my list below.