Interview with the new PhD representative

21 October 2021

We sat down with Maria Shaidrova, the new PhD representative, to talk research, IMISCOE and the PhD network. Enjoy! 

Hello Maria, we hope you are doing well. You are now the new PhD representative and want to get to know you a bit better! Let’s start from you. Can you give a short bio and tell us what has your work and research have been focusing on lately?

My name Maria Shaidrova and I am a PhD student at the University of Tilburg, the Netherlands. Originally, my research was focused on the “risky” migration from Nigeria to the EU. Yet, upon my arrival to Benin City, I have realized that, in fact, I was following very Western understanding of what constitutes the “risky migration behavior”. More precisely, by researching why Nigerian migrants who were returned from Libya by the IOM take the Mediterranean route again and again, I was unwillingly contributing to the production of the Western counter-migration narrative.   This realization made me re-structure the original question and focus on knowledge production in migration studies, focusing on the Nigerian migration to the EU. 

My traditional ethnographic research journey started in Benin City, Nigeria in November 2019. Unfortunately, it was interrupted by the pandemic in February 2021. Although it might seem that this interruption had a negative impact on the data collection process, it is not entirely true: I actually spared some time to think about my methodology and had eventually changed my approach completely. This is how I decided to move to Sicily and co-create a conceptual art exhibition. A small dream of mine came true - together with the Nigerian community and a small collective of artists, we produced the exhibition “ILOI”. The idea behind the exhibition was to encourage respondents and researchers/artists to represent themselves in the way they envision it and stop “hunting” for migration stories and experiences.

To IMISCOE: when and how did you first get in touch with this community and what made you stick around?

I joined the IMISCOE PhD Network in 2018. Being a first PhD student, I was longing for peer support and the sense of community, which was generously offered by the IMISCOE PhD Network. This is how I started my IMISCOE journey. First, I was active in organizing the Intergenerational Feedback Sessions and later took a bit more responsibilities. In the Covid times, we (me and other PhD students active in the Network) realized that it is important to support PhDs in the uncertain and tough times. We therefore joined the preparation of the online conference and came up with wonderful “virtual activities”. I guess the online conference is one of the best IMISCOE memories I have. We were short on time and resources, confused about the format…But! We managed to get 250 PhDs participate in our activities and it was truly a great achievement. 

Now you’re the PhD representative. What lead you to this position and what are you looking forward to within this role? What’s your wish and objective for the PhD Network?

I think that this is an important role, but it is not really about me. It is about an amazing group of people who are working hard and will be working hard on making the lives of the PhD students more bright and interesting. My goal (and wish) is to make this group of people heard within the IMISCOE Network and by doing this, make it serve as a bridge between the world community of young migration scholars and senior IMISCOE members. I would also love to make the PhD Network as inclusive and caring as possible, to promote it as a safe place where PhDs can get support and assistance. 

This is the last year of my PhD and, of course, the challenge is to write everything up and be at least a bit satisfied with the result.

Thank you for virtually sitting down with us and good luck being the PhD representative!


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