The winner of the 2018 Maria Ioannis Baganha Dissertation Award is Dr. Apostolos Andrikopoulos. His dissertation entitled “Argonauts of West Africa: Migration, Citizenship and Kinship Dynamics in a Changing Europe", was defended at the University of Amsterdam in December 2017.
Merits of Apostolos Andrikopoulos’ work
Andrikopoulos’ work has received unanimous praise by all reviewers. In words of one of the reviewers, as well as “being brilliant as a piece of academic scholarship, it is beautifully crafted and storied” and is truly original. Based on extensive multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork with West African migrants to Amsterdam (and elsewhere), the thesis argues for the ongoing importance of kinship in the ways in which they negotiate the precarities of life as (often irregular) migrants. It argues, however, that kinship must be understood in ways which take seriously the non-consanguinous relationships formed by migrants, and more often treated as merely strategic ‘fictive kinship’ or ‘sham marriage’. Grounded in an impressive theoretical framework drawing from the anthropology of kinship, migration studies and political science, with its rich ethnographic data, the thesis amply demonstrates the transformations in understanding which can be achieved by such an approach and makes a strong contribution to the ‘new kinship studies’ which explore the making (and unmaking) of relatedness. The thesis is not only original in the form of migration which it addresses and the creative way in which it focuses on kinship, but also in its remarkable ethnography. Different from many studies relying on interviews with scholars travelling into the sites of their interviewees, the author not only lived in the same city quarter as many of the migrants whose practices he researched, but he worked with many of his interlocutors in a fast food restaurant and shared a flat with three African migrants. The detailed and intimate accounts of individual life trajectories testify to his abilities to gain trust of his interlocutors. At the example of detailed life-stories, Andrikopoulos shows the importance as well as complexities of reciprocity and care, but also jealously and fear in overlapping circles of belonging as co-nationals, co-believers, transatlantic extended, or “tribal” kin. Not least, the thesis is beautifully written. In sum, this thesis “not only makes a striking number of important contributions to the field, but it is a highly engaging read”.