Emmanuel Chima is a PhD student, Michigan State University's School of Social Work and part of our Displaced Scholars Peer Mentoring Program. Here, he talks about his work and aims to humanise and share the experiences of forced displacement, youth transitions, and aging.

Tell us how your career as a researcher began.  

My research career began when I participated in the Master of Social Work Research Scholars Program. I did a pilot study on refugee youth identity formation, which encouraged me to continue inquiring into the experiences surrounding forced displacement.

What are you working on now and why?

I am looking at cultural production and transnational exchange through the Tumaini Festival at Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi. I am compelled by the advocacy and humanising nature of the festival.

What’s the best thing about being a researcher? What are the biggest challenges?

I believe research gives voice to stories and experiences that would otherwise go unnoticed. When those narratives are picked up by others, tangible action, however small, can then follow. Some of the challenges in this process are limited mentorship opportunities and access to tangible research experiences.

What’s the best advice, professional or personal, anyone has given you?

Some of the most meaningful advice that I received growing up was to stick with the basics and to remember prior experiences. It’s helped keep me centred in life and has served as a compass in my personal development.  

What advice would you like to give other early career researchers?

Let ideas run free before funnelling them down to what seems most logical or practical. I have arrived at unexpected insights with sound implications through this thought process.

What impact do you hope your work will have?

I hope my work will help humanise and share the experiences of forced displacement, youth transitions, and aging. Additionally, I hope that my work will provide varying perspectives for programs that impact daily living, and both individual and communal improvement.

What do you hope to achieve by participating in the Displaced Scholars Peer Mentoring Program?

Through my participation in the program, I hope to learn from and collaborate with other scholars invested in the wellbeing and thriving of communities and individuals who have experienced or been impacted by forced displacement.

Ten years from now I hope that….

…research on the experiences surrounding forced displacement and aging will not be restricted to or driven by monoliths of singular struggle, deficit and trauma.


Check out Emmanuel’s recent publications: 

Chima, E. (2020, November). Life in Malawi’s prison-turned-refugee camp. African diaspora: Before and after COVID-19. Africa in Fact. (pp. 36-41). Good Governance Africa.  

Chima, E. (2020, August). The spaces in between: Social memory at Dzaleka refugee camp. Immigrant legacies: The little things in the suitcase 1. Routed, 11. 


The Displaced Scholars Peer Mentoring Program is a joint program of the Kaldor Centre and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Lund University. It has received the generous support of the Universitas21 Research Resilience Fund.