School of Geography

Professor Kavita Datta, B.A., Botswana; PhD, Cambridge

Kavita

Professor of Development Geography

Email: k.datta@qmul.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 5398
Room Number: Geography Building, Room 217

Profile

I am a development geographer whose research spans economic and financial geography, and migration studies, contributing to critical understandings of transnational migration, financialisation and migrants’ financial practices. These interests have been developed in a series of projects investigating the intersections between transnational migration and the shifting nature, politics and sensibility of work in global cities; migrants’ everyday remittance, debt, inheritance and charitable practices; the financialization of remittance intermediaries and financial inclusion and the increased significance of digital finance in migrants’ lives. In addition, I am currently working on a collaborative project developing a shared strategy for funding migration research for the ESRC and AHRC.

Some of the key debates and findings of these bodies of work have been developed in the following recent publications:

Key Publications

  • Datta, K. and Guermond, V. (Forthcoming) ‘Financialization and/of migrant labour,’ in P. Mader, D. Mertens and N. van der Zwan (Eds) Handbook of Financialisation, Routledge. 
  • 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. and Aznar, C. (2018) The space-times of migration and debt: re-positioning migrants’ debt and credit practices and institutions in, and through, London. (Geoforum Special Issue: Geographies of Debt, edited by Samuel Kirwan and Chris Harker).
  • 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 am Deputy Vice-Principal (Research Impact) and Director of the Centre for the Study of Migration.

Teaching

I teach development geography across the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes as part of a distinctive, innovative and collaborative ‘hybrid geography’ agenda which encourages students to challenge the positioning of the global South as a collection of places in need of external development interventions; to recognise the immense diversity of the global South and the links between the global South and North. This agenda is particularly developed in the two undergraduate modules which I teach: Spaces of Uneven Development and Development Futures: Mumbai Unbound which I co-designed and delivered until December 2017. The latter is the first development geography overseas field class to be offered at the School of Geography at QMUL. I also teach on two postgraduate programmes, MA/MRes Global Development Futures and MSc Development and International Business.

Undergraduate Teaching:

Postgraduate Teaching

Student Feedback

  • “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, 2016-17)
  • “Amazing trip, lecturers brilliant, content interesting and looks at all spectrums of Mumbai’ (Development Futures, 2016-17)
  • ‘I have learned a lot about how I see the world. Every lecture is thought provoking, changed the way I see the world and the topics discussed.’ (Spaces of Uneven Development, 2016-17)

Research

Research Interests:

My research spans development and economic geography, and migration studies contributing to critical understandings of transnational migration, financialisation and migrants’ financial practices. Challenging interdisciplinary boundaries, my programme of research reflects collaborations with academic colleagues, public policy organisations and migrant/civic institutions. My research interests have been developed in three key strands of research encompassing current and recent projects:

1) London International Development Centre’s Migration Leadership Team (Co-I; ESRC-AHRC, 2017-2019) is developing a shared strategy for funding and supporting migration research for the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The team is identifying strategic opportunities and priorities for further research and highlighting best practice in the area of impact through a series of global migration conversations with researchers, policy-makers, practitioners, migrant associations and arts organisations in the UK, Brussels, Delhi, Nairobi, New York and Beirut. These conversations have (i) assessed the scope, achievements and challenges of existing migration research portfolios; (ii) identified strategic opportunities and priorities for further research; (iii) highlighted approaches and methods which build effective and equitable partnerships and achieve maximum impact. This is a collaborative project with Laura Hammond (SOAS, PI) and Elaine Chase (IoE, UCL; Co-I).

2) Transnational migration, financialisation and financial practices: I have a long-standing interest in migrant women and men’s financial practices. Previous work has explored 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) and Muslim migrants’ charitable networks in London (Islamic Philanthropy in post-recession London, with Al James and Jane Pollard, Centre for the Study of Migration, QMUL and CURDS, University of Newcastle) exploring the sources, motivations and everyday practices of migrant charitable giving which underpin larger-scale Islamic charitable financial flows through London. Building upon this work, my current projects are:

i) ‘Disciplining the remittance marketplace? The financialisation of small and medium money transfer agencies in London.’ (Leverhulme Trust, 2017-2019).
This project is investigating the financialization of key remittance service providers – small and medium size money transfer businesses (SM-MTBs) – in the aftermath of the financial crisis in London. At the core of this project is a concern to make visible previously undocumented processes of the financialisation of institutional intermediaries, the multi-scalar political, financial, and commercial imperatives shaping these interventions and the everyday financial practices that SM-MTOs craft as they seek to negotiate financialisation.

ii) Digital financial inclusion at the margins (QMUL Institute of Humanities and Social Science, Large Grant Seed Corn, 2018-2019).
Digital Financial Inclusion (DFI) is at the forefront of current approaches to financial inclusion which illustrates the current valorisation of digital solutions to a range of development issues, a ‘crusade against cash’ and the financialisation of development. A more critical and nuanced assessment of the role of DFI in (re)producing inequalities along a continuum of inclusion-exclusion is less well articulated. Involving research with Indian fintechs, migrant communities and small and medium size business owners, this project is exploring the domestication of DFI in the everyday, the limits of DFI and opportunities for learning from India’s migration-digital-finance nexus which may have relevance in wider European contexts. This is a collaborative project with Philippa Williams (Geography, QMUL).

iii) Transmitting In/equality Across Borders: Shifting Inheritance Practices and Outcomes among Indian Migrants in London. (ESRC-CASE Studentship, 2018-2021).
Investigations of migrants’ inheritance norms, practices and outcomes are limited in multi-disciplinary migration and inheritance studies. Situated within a broader interest in migrants financial practices, this project is examining the extent and patterns of transnational inheritance among migrant men and women; the informal and formal mechanisms through which migrants’ inheritance rights are negotiated, maintained and translated and the extent to which inherited assets translate into economic security and productivity. This is a collaborative project with Alastair Owens (Geography, QMUL and Omar Khan, Director, Runnymede Trust).

3) Migrants and the arts: This new strand of research is exploring the role of the arts in migration research. Building upon research undertaken with Cathy McIlwaine (KCL) and CASA Latin American Theatre exploring cultural consumption among Latin American migrants (QMUL HSS Collaboration Fund, 2016-17), and Home for Refugee Children led Alison Blunt (QMUL) in collaboration with the Geffrey Museum, the V&A Museum Childhood, the University of London in Paris, and QMUL Centres on Migration; Home and Childhood Culture (QMUL HSS Collaboration Fund), my current interests are being developed on a project entitled Athens-London-Paris (with Amit Rai and Project Phakama). Initial research and networking activities fed into events part of the QMUL Tate Exchange programme; extending the project from Athens to Paris. My broader interest in migrants and the arts is being furthered through the LIDC-MLT programme.

Publications

Books

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. (Forthcoming) ‘Financialization and/of migrant labour,’ in P. Mader, D. Mertens and N. van der Zwan (Eds) Handbook of Financialisation, Routledge.
  • 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. and Aznar, C. (2018) The space-times of migration and debt: re-positioning migrants’ debt and credit practices and institutions in, and through, London. (Geoforum Special Issue: Geographies of Debt, edited by Samuel Kirwan and Chris Harker).
  • 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.
  • 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, Cheltanham: 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 Encyclopedia of Housing and Home, Oxford: Elsevier.
  • Datta, K. (2012) ‘Housing and migration: Evidence from the Global South’, in International Encyclopedia of Housing and Home, Oxford: Elsevier.
  • Wood, G. and Datta, K. (2012) ‘Policy’ in International Encyclopedia 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 migrants 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.

Supervision

I have extensive supervisory experience. I sit on the Steering Committee for the QMUL Mobile People: Mobility as a way of Life Leverhulme Doctoral Centre, and I am the QMUL lead for LISS-DTP Pathway 10: International Development, Conflict and Human Security.

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 migration research which cuts across the arts, humanities and social sciences.

My current PhD students are:

  • Danai Avgeri, The Securitisation of Transnational Migration and the Greek Crisis. (QMUL Doctoral Award).
  • Theo Barry-Born, (with Jon May) Everyday geographies of irregular renting: housing, informality, and citizenship in London. (ESRC Studentship).
  • Shabna Begum, Stay and fight: How a Bengali squatters movement claimed ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ in the East end of London in the 1970s. (QMUL Doctoral Award)
  • Kavita Dattani, (with Philippa Williams), The digital economy of informal labour in India: exploring the role of digital technologies in urban women's work-lives. (ESRC 1+3 studentship)
  • Jenni Doyle (with Alastair Owens and Omar Khan Runnymede Trust), Transmitting In/equality Across Borders: Shifting Inheritance Practices and Outcomes among Indian Migrants in London. (ESRC-CASE Studentship)
  • Giovanna Gini (with Parvati Nair), Cultural adaptation and climate-induced migration in Maasai culture. (Leverhulme Doctoral Award)
  • Vincent Guermond, (with Al James) Neoliberalising migrant finance? The financialisation of remittance recipients in Senegal and Ghana. (QMUL Doctoral Award).
  • Salome Wanjiku Kimani (with William Monteith) Mobile money and youth in Kenya.

My previous PhD students include:

  • 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’ (QMUL Studentship).
  • 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’, (QMUL Studentship)
  • Amy Norman, ‘Continuity and Change in the Time of AIDS: Reconceptualising Childhood in KwaZulu-Natal’, (QMUL Studentship)
  • Edlam Aberra, ‘Livelihood Sustainability amongst Pastoral Women and Men in Peri-Urban Yabello, Southern Ethiopia’, (QMUL Studentship)

Public Engagement

I have engaged in a diverse range of public engagement activities in the past year.

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). Additional events have also been organised at key migration conferences held in Barcelona, Thessaloniki and London. 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.