I am a development geographer whose research spans migration studies and economic and financial geography. Contributing to critical understandings of transnational migration, financialization and migrants’ financial practices, my interdisciplinary research has developed along three key strands of research. These are: (i) migration, financial practice and work; (ii) food (in)security, mobility and migration and (iii) research agenda setting projects. Funded by the UKRI’s ESRC, AHRC, GCRF, BBSRC as well as the NIHR and Leverhulme Trust, my current research is based in the UK (London, Glasgow, Cardiff) and Zimbabwe. I value collaborative research, working with academic colleagues, public policy organisations and migrant/civic institutions.
Alongside being Professor of Development Geography, I am Deputy Vice-Principal (Research Impact) and Director of the Queen Mary Centre for the Study of Migration.
Recent publications in which some of the contributions of my research are elaborated upon are:
- Datta, K. and Guermond, V. (2020) Remittances in times of crisis: Reflections on labour, social reproduction and digitisation during Covid-19, Antipode Interventions. Available at: https://antipodeonline.org/2020/06/18/remittances-in-times-of-crisis/.
- Datta, K. and Guermond, V. (2020) 'Financialization and/of migrant labour,' in P. Mader, D. Mertens and N. van der Zwan (Eds) Handbook of Financialization, Routledge.
- Datta, K. and Aznar, C. (2019) The space-times of migration and debt: re-positioning migrants' debt and credit practices and institutions in, and through, London. Geoforum, 98: 300-308.
- James, A.; Datta, K.; Pollard, J. and Akli, Q. (2018) Building financial resilience: Migrant economies of charitable giving, Financial Geography Working Paper 19, Fin Geo Network.
- Datta, K. (2016) ''Mainstreaming' the 'alternative'? The fincialization of transnational migrant remittances,' in R. Martin and J. Pollard (Eds) Handbook of the Geographies of Money and Finance, Edward Elgar. (In print).
- Pollard, J.; Datta, K.; James, A and Akli, Q. (2015) Islamic charitable infrastructure and giving in East London: Everyday economic-development geographies in practice, Journal of Economic Geography, DOI: 10.1093/jeg/lbv020
I teach development geography across the School of Geography's undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. My teaching is underpinned by a distinctive, innovative and collaborative ethos which encourages students to challenge the positioning of the Global South as a collection of places in need of external development interventions; to recognise its immense diversity and the interconnectedness of the Global South and North.
These principles underpin the modules I have co-designed and deliver. At the undergraduate level, these include Spaces of Uneven Development and Development Futures: Mumbai Unbound. The latter module is a particular highlight of my teaching career as it was the first undergraduate development geography field trip offered by the School of Geography, kickstarting the internationalisation of our teaching curriculum. At the postgraduate level, I have co-developed and teach on Retheorising Global Development and Migration and Mobilities.
Current Undergraduate Teaching
- GEG5128 Spaces of Uneven Development
Current Postgraduate Teaching
My research-led teaching receives consistently high student evaluations as evidenced below:
- "The teaching has been brilliant, and the mixture of resources provided e.g. not just assigning readings but also videos and podcasts has been really helpful and a breath of fresh air." (Migration and Mobilities, 2020-21).
- "Very well organised. Enjoyed the module content. You can tell a lot of thought and effort went in to making it easy for us to adapt to virtual learning. The breakout groups were helpful as we were able to have in depth class discussions in smaller groups." (Spaces of Uneven Development, 2020-2021).
- "Taught by enthusiastic lecturer who makes you want to engage. Best module I have taken! Had a great time in the lecture room and out in India." (Development Futures: Mumbai Unbound, 2016-17)
As a development geographer, my core interest in transnational migration has developed along the following lines of enquiry encompassing current and recent projects:
Migration, financial practice and work
Two current projects in this field of research are:
(1) 'Connecting during Covid: Practices of care, remittance sending and digitisation among UK migrant communities,' is a collaborative project I am leading with colleagues based at SOAS and UCL. Focusing on the Indian, Somali and Brazilian communities living in London, Glasgow and Cardiff, this project is exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on migrant communities local and transnational care giving and receiving. We are particularly interested in understanding remittance sending as practices of care situated within emotional and moral economies, understanding how these are (re)shaped in times of crisis and the consequences of this on migrants’ well-being.
(2) I co-lead the Gender and Migration work package of the GCRF funded Migration, Inequality and Development Hub (MIDEQ) on South-South Migration. This work package specifically investigates intersectional approaches to understanding everyday experiences of gender, migration and mobility; the significance of place and scale in shaping gender norms, values and practices and multi-sectoral livelihood practices adopted by migrant men and women. Encompassing 90 partners across 12 migration corridors, our work package encompasses the China-Ghana, Nepal-Malaysia and Brazil-Haiti corridors.
This body of work builds on my long-standing interest in this area. Previous work has examined the financialization of remittance service providers in the UK in the aftermath of the financial crash ('Disciplining the remittance marketplace? The financialisation of small and medium money transfer agencies in London,' funded by the Leverhulme Trust, 2017-2019) and the diverse everyday financial practices adopted by new migrant communities in London within the context of financial exclusion (Migrants and their Money: Surviving Financial Exclusion in London, Friends Provident Foundation, ESRC-CASE studentship, London Citizens, 2008-2012). I have co-investigated Muslim migrants' charitable networks in London (Islamic Philanthropy in post-recession London, with Al James and Jane Pollard, funded by QM's Centre for the Study of Migration and CURDS, University of Newcastle, 2011-2018) exploring the sources, motivations and everyday practices of migrant charitable giving. My collaborative project, Global Cities of Work: New Migrant Divisions of Labour (funded by the ESRC, 2004-2007), explored the changing nature, politics and sensibility of low paid migrant work in the global city of London.
Migration, food (in)security and health
I have a growing interest in the intersections between food (in)security, mobility and migration. Arising in part due to the significance of food-related remittances, this work is being advanced in the following projects.
(1) Food (in)security, malnutrition and migration in rural and urban Zimbabwe. Situated within a context of significant food insecurity in the country which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, this interdisciplinary research is funded by the BBSRC, GCRF and AHRC. Building upon public health and more targeted nutritional interventions, my participation is from a social science perspective centring on a longitudinal analysis of food cultures; place-based understandings of food insecurity and the significance of mobility and migration – the flow of people, cash and (food) commodities – in understanding and coping with food insecurity. Key activities currently underway are a series of academic and policy related workshops, primary research with mothers in rural Zimbabwe and interviews with the Zimbabwean diaspora in the UK.
(2) The 'covidisation' of migration and health research: Implications for academic, policy and practice. This series of webinars organised with colleagues at UCL and Wits University African Centre for Migration and Society has interrogated the challenges and potential opportunities COVID-19 has presented to the field of migration and health research. The purpose is, through collaborative discussions and dialogues, to identify solution focused ways forward.
(3) Trust and the COVID-19 vaccine uptake in Tower Hamlets, in collaboration with Social Action for Health and Tower Hamlets Council, is identifying key barriers to vaccine uptake in the borough. Drawing upon broader debates related to trust – both inter-personal and across communities and with the (local) state, the project is seeking to understand how intersectional identities are shaping vaccine acceptance. In its initial stages, the project is deploying both a survey and focus group discussions.
Research agenda setting work.
As a Co-I on the London International Development Centre's Migration Leadership Team (ESRC-AHRC, 2017-2019), I was part of a cross institutional team that developed a shared interdisciplinary strategic agenda for supporting the UK’s ESRC and AHRC, and wider UKRI-funded, migration research. Setting out proposals for the next five years (2020-2025), this strategy identifies recommendations about future agenda-setting and work priorities. It is the outcome of an inclusive consultative approach which entailed 'Global Conversations' with 450 participants including academics, practitioners, policy makers and representatives of migrant and refugee communities. Other key project outcomes are a short film, Life on the Move, which won the 'Best Social Media Short' category in the AHRC Research in Film Award 2019. We have also developed a Migration Research Support Tool to map UKRI funded migration research, allowing researchers, policy makers, funders and practitioners to see the scope, achievements and challenges of the UKRI migration funded landscape.
Spinning off this, I co-led on the efforts to establish core principles for equitable partnership working in migration research. These have since been developed into the Johannesburg Principles which are currently being 'road tested' in a range of different migration research contexts.
I am also co-editing the recently commissioned Elgar Companion to Migration and the Sustainable Development Goals to be published in 2023.
Datta, K. (2012) Migrants and their money: Surviving financial exclusion in London. Bristol: Policy Press and Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Wills, J., Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J., May, J., and McIlwaine, C. (2010) Global cities at work: Migrant labour in an uneven world. London: Pluto.
Datta, K. and Jones, G.A. (1999) Housing and Finance in Developing Countries. Routledge, London.
Journal articles and book chapters
Datta, K. and Guermond, V. (2020) Remittances in times of crisis: Reflections on labour, social reproduction and digitisation during Covid-19, Antipode Interventions. Available at: https://antipodeonline.org/2020/06/18/remittances-in-times-of-crisis/.
Datta, K. and Guermond, V. (2020) 'Financialization and/or migrant labour,' in P. Mader, D. Mertens and N. van der Zwan (Eds) Handbook of Financialization, Routledge.
Kraftl, P.; Datta, K. and Geoghegan, H. (2020) Revisiting Jacqueline Trivers: "How the other half lives", Area, 52: 4, 1-3.
Datta, K. and Aznar, C. (2019) The space-times of migration and debt: re-positioning migrants’ debt and credit practices and institutions in, and through, London. Geoforum, 98: 300-308.
James, A.; Datta, K.; Pollard, J. and Akli, Q. (2018) Building financial resilience: Migrant economies of charitable giving, Financial Geography Working Paper 19, Fin Geo Network.
Datta, K. (2016) ''Mainstreaming' the 'alternative'? The financialization of transnational migrant remittances,' in R. Martin and J. Pollard (Eds) Handbook of the Geographies of Money and Finance, Edward Elgar.
Pollard, J.; Datta, K.; James, A and Akli, Q. (2015) Islamic charitable infrastructure and giving in East London: Everyday economic-development geographies in practice, Journal of Economic Geography, DOI: 10.1093/jeg/lbv020
Kraftl, P.; Datta, K. and Wood, P. (2015) Editorial, Area, 47 (1), 2-4.
Datta, K. and McIlwaine, C. (2014) 'Negotiating masculinised migrant rights and everyday citizenship in a global city: Brazilian migrant men in London,' in Gormon-Murray, A. and Hopkins, P. (Eds) Masculinities and Place, London: Ashgate, pp 93-108.
McIlwaine, C. and Datta, K. (2014) Sustaining a global city at work: Resilient geographies of a migrant division of labour, in Imrie, R. and Lees, L. (Eds) Sustainable London? The Future of a Global City, Bristol: Policy Press, pp 111-128.
Datta, K. (2014) 'Migrant women in the new economy: Understanding the gender-migration-care nexus,' in V. Desai and R. Potter (Eds) Companion to Development Studies (3rd Edition), Oxford and New York: Routledge, pp416-420.
Datta, K.; McIlwaine, C.; Herbert, J.; Evans, Y.; May, J. and Wills, J. (2012) 'Global workers for global cities: low paid migrant labour in London,' in B. Derudder, M. Hoyler, Peter J. Taylor and F. Witlox (Eds) International Handbook of Globalisation and World Cities, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp 390-397.
Datta, K.; McIlwaine, C.; May, J. and Wills, J. (2012) 'Migrants and migration: Academic research in the UK,' Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 20 (1): 95-110.
Datta, K. (2012) 'Housing finance: Global South', International Encyclopaedia of Housing and Home, Oxford: Elsevier.
Datta, K. (2012) 'Housing and migration: Evidence from the Global South', in International Encyclopaedia of Housing and Home, Oxford: Elsevier.
Wood, G. and Datta, K. (2012) 'Policy' in International Encyclopaedia of Housing and Home, Oxford: Elsevier.
Datta, K. (2011) 'Last hired and first fired? The impact of the economic downturn on low-paid Bulgarian migrant workers in London,' Journal of International Development, 23: 565-582.
Datta, K. (2011) 'In the eyes of a son, a father is everything': Changing constructions of fatherhood in urban Botswana,' in N. Visvanathan, L. Duggan, N. Wiegersma and L. Nisonoff (eds) The Women, Gender and Development Reader, Second Edition, 121-136 (originally published in Women's Studies International Forum, Volume 30 (2), pp. 97-113).
May, J., Wills, J., Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J. and McIlwaine, C. (2010) 'Global Cities at Work: Migrant labour in low paid employment in London', The London Journal 35 (1) 85–99.
Datta, K.; McIlwaine, C.J., Evans, Y.; Herbert, J.; May, J. and Wills, J., (2010) Towards a migrant ethic of care? Negotiating care and caring among migrant workers in London's low pay economy. Feminist Review, 94 (1): 93-116.
Wills, J.; McIlwaine, C.J.; Datta, K.; May, J.; Herbert, J. and Evans, Y. (2010) New migrant divisions of labour, in Coe, N. and Jones, A. (Eds) The Economic Geography of the UK, London: Sage.
Wills, J.; Datta, K.; May, J.; McIlwaine, C.J.; Evans, Y. and Herbert, J. (2010) (Im)migration, local, regional and uneven development, in Pike, A.; Rodriguez-Pose, A. and Tomerey, J. (Eds) Routledge Handbook of Local and Regional Development, London: Routledge.
May, J., Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J., McIlwaine, C. and Wills, J. (2010) 'Migrant workers and the global city', Sociology Review 20 (2): 13–16.
Datta, K., (2009) Risky migrants? Low paid migrants coping with financial exclusion in London, European Urban and Regional Studies, 16 (4): 331-344.
Datta, K. (2009) Transforming South-North relations? International migration and development. Geography Compass, 3 (1): 108-134.
Datta, K.; McIlwaine, C.J., May, J.; Herbert, J.; Evans, Y. and Wills, J. (2009) Men on the move: narratives of migration and work among low paid migrant workers in London, (Special issue: Masculinities and intersectionality), Social and Cultural Geography, 10 (8): 853–873.
Wills, J.; Datta, K.; Evans, Y.; Herbert, J.; May, J. and McIlwaine, C.J., (2009) Faith at work: Religion and the politics of employment in London, (Special issue: Transforming Work) The Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 2 (3): 443-461.
Wills, J. Datta, K. Evans, Y. Herbert, J. May, J. and McIlwaine, C. (2009) London's migrant division of labour. European Urban and Regional Studies, 16 (3): 257-271.
Herbert, J., May, J., Wills, J, Datta, K., Evans, Y. and McIlwaine, C. (2008) Multicultural living? Experiences of everyday racism amongst Ghanaian migrants in London, European Urban and Regional Studies, 15 (2) pp. 103-117.
May, J. Datta, K. Evans, E. Herbert, J. and McIlwaine, C. and Wills, J. (2008) Travelling neoliberalism: Polish and Ghanaian migrant workers in London, in Smith, A., Stenning, A. and Willis, K. (Eds) Social Justice and Neoliberalism: Global perspectives. London: Verso.
Datta, K., (2007) 'In the eyes of a son, a father is everything': Changing constructions of fatherhood in urban Botswana. Women's Studies International Forum, Volume 30 (2), pp. 97-113.
Datta, K., McIlwaine, C.J., Wills, J.; Evans, Y., Herbert and J., May (2007) The new development finance or exploiting migrant labour? Remittance sending among low-paid migrant workers in London. International Development Planning Review. Vol 29 (1): 43-67.
Datta K. (2007) In search of justice? Gender and generation in a globalizing world in Mapetla, M.; Schlyter, A. and Bless, B. (eds) Urban Experiences of Gender, Generation and Social Justice. Institute of Southern African Studies, National University of Lesotho, Pages19-44.
May, J., Wills, J., Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J. and McIlwaine, C.J. (2007) Keeping London working: Global cities, the British state and London's migrant division of labour. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 32: 151-167. (Most cited article in 2008, in top ten downloaded articles in 2012).
Datta, K. (2007) Gender and micro-finance, Habitat Debate. Special issue on Financing for the Urban Poor, 13 (1): 8 (Invited contribution by UN Habitat).
Datta, K., McIlwaine, C.J., Evans, Y., Herbert, J., May, J. and Wills, J. (2007) From coping strategies to tactics: London's low-pay economy and migrant labour. British Journal of Industrial Relations. 45 (2): 409-438.
Evans, Y.; Wills, J.; Datta, K.; Herbert, J.; McIlwaine, C.J. and May, J. (2007) Subcontracting by stealth in London's hotels: impacts and implications for labour organising. Just Labour, 10: 85-98.
Datta, K. (2004) A coming of age? From WID to GAD to 'add-men-and-stir' in urban Botswana. Journal of Southern African Studies, 40 (2): 271-288.
McIlwaine, C. and Datta, K. (2004) Endangered youth? Youth, gender and sexualities in Urban Botswana. Gender, Place and Culture, 11 (4): 483-512.
McIlwaine, C.J. and Datta, K. (2003) From feminising to engendering development. Gender, Place and Culture, 10 (4): 369-382. (Ranked third in the top ten article downloads from this journal between June 2006-May 2007).
Datta, K. and Jones, G.A. (2001) Housing and finance in developing countries: invisible issues on the new agenda. Habitat International, 25: 333-357.
Datta, K. and McIlwaine, C. (2000) Empowered Leaders'? Perspectives on Women Heading Households in Latin America and Southern Africa. Gender and Development, 8:3, 40-49. (Also reprinted in Caroline Sweetman (ed) (2001) Women and Leadership, Oxfam: Oxford).
Jones, G.A. and Datta, K. (2000) Enabling markets to work: how close is South Africa to best practice? International Planning Studies 5 (3): 393-416.
Jones, G.A. and Datta, K. (1999) From self-help to self-finance: the changing focus of urban research and policy in K. Datta and G.A. Jones (Eds) Housing and Finance in Developing Countries. Routledge, London.
Datta, K. (1999) A gendered perspective on formal and informal finance in Botswana in K. Datta and G.A. Jones (Eds) Housing and Finance in Developing Countries. Routledge, London.
Butterfield, G.; Datta, K.; Davie, T.; Gray, M.; Hall, R. and Lee, R. (1999) Networks of change: sharing and the promotion of active teaching and reading: a collective review of the Geography Discipline Network's development of a teaching and learning project. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 23 (2): 242-247.
Datta, K. (1998) Gender, labour markets and migration in and from Botswana in D. Simon (Ed) Reconfiguring the Region: South Africa in Southern Africa. James Currey, Oxford.
Datta, K. (1996) The organisation and performance of a low-income rental market: the case of Gaborone, Botswana. Cities, 13 (4): 237-246.
Datta, K (1996) Women owners, tenants and sharers in Botswana in A. Schlyter (Ed.) A Place to Live: Gender Research on Housing in Africa. Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala.
Datta, K. (1995) Strategies for urban survival? Women landlords in Gaborone, Botswana. Habitat International, 19 (1): 1-12.
Datta, K. (1995) Rural homes and urban dwellings? Gender, migration and the importance of urban tenure in Gaborone, Botswana. International Journal of Population Geography, 1 (2): 183-195.
I have extensive experience of supervising and mentoring Early Career Researchers including 8 current PhD students and 24 PDRAs/RAs associated with my research projects. I am very active in postgraduate recruitment in my role as a LISS-DTP Pathway Lead (Pathway 10: International Development, Conflict and Human Security) and member of the QM Leverhulme Doctoral College (Mobile People: Mobility as a way of life).
I welcome applications from postgraduate students wishing to work on migration related issues with a specific emphasis on: (i) migrants financial practices including philanthropy, remittances, diaspora investment and inheritance; (ii) digital financial inclusion and digital payment systems; (iii) the migration-development nexus; (iv) migrants, work and labour markets. I am particularly interested in interdisciplinary projects.
Current PhD students
- Danai Avgeri, (with Simon Reid-Henry), Governing migration, rebordering Europe: Space, law and time in Greece's "refugee crisis". (QM Principal's Award).
- Theo Barry-Born, (with Jon May), Over-crowded: volumetric urban politics and migrant rental housing precarity in London. (ESRC studentship).
- Shabna Begum, (with Alastair Owens), Exploring diasporic home making in the context of the Bengali Squatters Movement in London, 1976-1978. (QM Principal's Award)
- Louisa Brain, (with Will Monteith), (Im)mobility and environmental change in the Horn of Africa. (Leverhulme Doctoral College Studentship).
- Kavita Dattani, (with Philippa Williams), Sexuality in the digital city: Pleasure, violence and solidarity in women's lives in Mumbai.. (ESRC 1+3 studentship)
- Jenni Doyle (with Alastair Owens and Runnymede Trust), Transmitting In/equality Across Borders: Shifting Inheritance Practices and Outcomes among Indian Migrants in London. (ESRC-CASE Studentship)
- Anna Finiguerra, (with Jef Huysman), Reconceptualising the Politics of Mobility through Practices of Making/Becoming (In)visible. (Leverhulme Doctoral College Award).
- Salome Wanjiku Kimani (with William Monteith) Everyday experiences of digital finance among market traders in Nairobi.
Previous PhD students
- Vincent Guermond, (with Al James) Neoliberalising migrant finance? The financialisation of remittance recipients in Senegal and Ghana. (QM Principal's Award).
- Amy Horton, (with Jane Wills), Financialisation of Care: Investment and Organising in the UK and US. (ESRC Studentship).
Suzane Solley, 'The widowisation of poverty in Nepal', (ESRC Studentship)
- Joshua Phillips (with Al James), 'Exploring the geographies of credit amongst entrepreneurial new migrant groups in London' (QM Principal’s Award).
- Camille Aznar, 'Risk, financial exclusion and migrant workers in London' (ESRC-CASE Studentship)
- Binh Tran, 'The role of civil society in natural resource management in Vietnam', (QM Principal's Award)
- Amy Norman, 'Continuity and Change in the Time of AIDS: Reconceptualising Childhood in KwaZulu-Natal', (QM Principal's Award)
- Edlam Aberra, 'Livelihood Sustainability amongst Pastoral Women and Men in Peri-Urban Yabello, Southern Ethiopia', (QM Principal's Award)
I have engaged in a diverse range of public engagement activities. As part of the LIDC’s Migration Leadership team, I have been involved in Global Migration Conversations held in Delhi (May 2018), Nairobi (July 2018), London (November 2018), Glasgow (January 2019) and forthcoming in Beirut (February 2019), New York (May 2019) and Mexico (May 2019). Regional in nature, these conversations have fostered engagement with migration and forced displacement scholars, national and regional policy makers and third sector practitioners, artists and museum curators, diplomats, migrants and refugees.