Research interview: George Neville researches migration, transformation and sustainability
What do you do at LUCSUS?
I have just begun my postdoctoral research here at LUCSUS, working within the ‘MISTY’ project on migration, transformation and sustainability. My role sees me focus on Mozambique from the six countries that MISTY encompasses, as well as heading up one of the overarching study themes on migration and the SDGs. I will also be teaching on some of the LUMES and Bachelor’s programmes throughout my post here.
What sustainability challenge do you find most interesting/pressing right now?
I have had the chance to carry out research for prolonged periods in some amazing places, and so the most interesting sustainability challenge for me right now is the urban condition in developing contexts. Cities are experiencing extraordinary rates of growth and while such changes can stimulate positive development, my concern lies with the challenges faced by urban residents and new in-migrants inhabiting substandard housing, accessing basic services, and occupying increasingly marginal land.
Also as a keen scuba diver, an issue particularly close to my heart is seeing the damage caused by climate change and plastic consumption to oceans and sea-life.
How does your research contribute to address these issues?
My research actually looks at the role of migrants as agents of transformation towards sustainability in their destination cities. It seeks to understand the life course of migrants, place attachment, and how such experiences and sentiments affect their pro-environmental behaviour and attitudes. One of the final phases of the study will incorporate migrants into the planning process through participatory workshops with policymakers and stakeholders, to ensure their challenges are heard and addressed moving forward.
What have you done before you came here?
I finished my PhD in 2017, which looked at everyday ‘hidden’ water practices in urban Ethiopia – both the illegal provision of water by vendors and consumption strategies within the household by informal residents. For the duration I worked alongside the NGO WaterAid in London and Addis Ababa, both to help inform its in-country urban water strategy and to help disseminate my findings in Ethiopia as a basis from which to advise water governance policy.
Most recently I have just returned from a year-long trip around Asia to travel and teach!
What drives you as an emerging researcher?
Understanding new contexts and making an impact. By far the greatest privilege as a researcher is working on projects and topics you are passionate about and making an impact, either in that field but most importantly for the people whose stories constitute the basis of your findings. Hearing that my work in Ethiopia had influenced certain individuals’ everyday struggles for the better was extremely rewarding.
What’s best about working at LUCSUS?
Aside from all the fika? It’s nice to be involved at such an interdisciplinary centre in which you are interested in absolutely EVERYONE’S research. The research themes are fascinating and there is a sense of responsibility for wider impact, plus it’s great to see so much internal collaboration on projects.