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The Migration for Equality and Development (MIDEQ) Hub works to advance the understanding and conceptualisation of South-South migration and inequalities, both within and beyond the academic sphere with the aim of improving outcomes for migrants and their families and ensuring that migration can be harnessed for development. These objectives are often undermined by negative global and national political and media narratives about migration. Xenophobic portrayals of people who migrate are all too familiar. These matter because racism, discrimination, hate speech and hate crime, harm individuals as well as entire communities. Migrants are often the first to be targeted and scapegoated by politicians for political reasons. At the same time, those who are most affected by these narratives often have the least access to public platforms to effectively challenge them.

Many MIDEQ researchers work in places where misconceptions of, and the use of dehumanising, gendered and racialised language about migrants is prevalent. Collectively, we have sought to use opportunities where they exist, and to create space where they do not, to shift narratives on South-South migration. This includes disseminating tailored research outputs as well as developing a range of impactful activities supported through MIDEQ’s Impact Initiatives. In this, MIDEQ is substantially different from traditional research projects, providing significantly greater opportunities for mobilising and leveraging transformational activities.

Our target audiences and participants for and in these activities have included international organisations, grassroots civil society organisations, trade unions and journalists. For example, MIDEQ researchers and partners have worked with media organisations to contribute more nuanced, evidence based and migrant-centred framing of migration. Activities led by and in partnership with arts-based organisations has enabled researchers to engage key audiences in innovative ways that traditional research outputs may not. Ultimately, MIDEQ Hub has sought to bridge the gap between academia and the broader public, fostering a more informed and empathetic understanding of migration through humanising experiences and providing platforms for migrants.

This Roundtable presents an opportunity for us to showcase some of these activities and to discuss important questions about how we effectively challenge anti-migrant narratives, including xenophobia and racism.


This MIDEQ Roundtable explores how researchers, working in partnership with others, can effectively challenge anti-migrant and xenophobic narratives and promote narratives grounded in empathy and diverse human stories. We will hear about different and creative approaches, ranging from animations to convey migrants’ stories to curating immersive exhibitions. Panellists will draw on their experiences to discuss how creative storytelling can be a powerful tool to provide alternative accounts that both humanise people who migrate as well as confront hegemonic narratives.

The objectives for this Roundtable are to:

  • Explore which types of activities and messages are most effective in engaging different types of audiences. Panellists will be asked to consider why and how they identified which narratives and which audiences they wished to target in their activity.
  • Consider the importance of centring migrants’ own experiences and voices in such activities aimed at changing problematic narratives. Panellists will be asked to reflect on how they involved people with migration experience in developing their activities or through providing platforms for migrants.
  • Explore the role of creative storytelling in humanising migrants and migration. Panellists will be asked to discuss their creative processes and think about the difference that utilising creative storytelling – as opposed to more traditional research methods – made.
  • Discuss the role of partnerships in changing narratives. Panellists will be asked to deliberate on which partners they sought to engage in developing and implementing their creative outputs.

Changing narratives concept note

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Professor Heaven Crawley, Director of MIDEQ and Head of Equitable Development, UNU-CPR Heaven Crawley leads the UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub (MIDEQ). Educated at the Universities of Sussex (1989-1994) and Oxford (1995-1999), Heaven has more than 25 years' experience of undertaking research on international migration in a wide range of institutional settings (government, voluntary sector, national and international organisations, academia). She is currently the Head of Equitable Development and Migration at UN University Centre for Policy Research.


Benjamin Worku-Dix, PositiveNegatives. Dr Benjamin Dix began his career as a professional photographer, working in South Asia, and has subsequently worked as a Communications Manager for the United Nations and various international NGOs across Asia and Africa for 12 years. Ben was based in LTTE controlled Vanni, North Sri Lanka with the UN from 2004 – 2008 throughout the conflict. After working for the UN through the civil war in Sri Lanka, Ben founded PositiveNegatives to produce literary comics that explore complex social and human rights issues, including conflict, migration and asylum. PositiveNegatives combines ethnographic research with illustration, adapting personal testimonies into art, education and advocacy materials.

Sheril Bustaman, Monash University Malaysia. Sheril A. Bustaman is a writer & producer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. With almost 10 years of experience in the industry, Sheril began her filmmaking career as an undergraduate in Monash University Malaysia where she produced shorts films & documentaries under the Filmmaker-in-Residence program. She has also shot documentaries focusing on the indigenous peoples in the Philippines and screened her debut documentary - Come Hell or High Water - at several festivals including the Bangkok International Film Festival and the Kota Kinabalu International Film Festival.

Pia Oberoi UN Human Rights (OHCHR). Pia Oberoi is currently Senior Advisor on Migration and Human Rights for the Asia Pacific Region based in the Bangkok office of the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) responsible for developing and implementing research and policy on migration and human rights in the region. Previous to this function, she was the head of global migration team at OHCHR where she headed the Office’s global work on policy and legal issues related to the human rights of all migrants and the intersections between migration and human rights.

Naa Densua Tordzro, University of Glasgow. Naa Densua Tordzro currently works at the University of Glasgow as Research Assistant on MIDEQ (Migration for Equality and Development), School Of Education. She was awarded her MPhil from the School of Education, University of Glasgow in 2021. She is Ghanaian, a fashion designer, dressmaker and African (Ga) music composer and singer with knowledge and research interest in ancient West African Adinkra symbols that were printed on traditional fabrics. Her current research focus is on decolonising textiles and fashion education in the contexts of the Global South.