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Narratives of ‘stuckness’ among North–South academic migrants in Thailand: interrogating normative logics and global power asymmetries of transnational academic migration

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posted on 2021-03-18, 00:01 authored by James Burford, Mary Eppolite, Ganon Koompraphant, Thornchanok Uerpairojkit
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. part of Springer Nature. Higher education (HE) researchers have become increasingly interested in transnational academic mobility as a field of inquiry. A phenomenon frequently associated with ‘progress’ and ‘development’, research accounts are written about academic migrants who harness career momentum and experience upward social mobility resulting from their travels. In contrast to scholarly accounts which link mobility with progress of many kinds, this article foregrounds under-considered accounts of migrant academics who describe themselves as moving ‘backwards’ and feeling ‘stuck’. Drawing on an empirical study with 25 migrant academics employed in Thailand, we investigate ‘stuckness’ via two narratives of Global North academics. These narrative portraits reveal how migration may be prompted by career immobilities and that migrant academics in Thailand may perceive that they lack opportunities for career progression. We also examine how Thailand is configured as a ‘weird’ mobility destination, one that may struggle for recognition as a site for international academic career progress. The key contribution we make to critical academic mobilities scholarship is to weave in decolonial analyses of the geopolitics of knowledge production, examining ‘South’ and ‘stuckness’ as potentially linked categories for North-to-South academic migrants. We argue that narratives of stuckness among Northern academic migrants in Thailand are deeply interwoven with assumptions made about desirable directions of global travel, assumptions which are born from the profound inequalities which characterise global HE’s core/periphery structure.


The authors received financial support provided by Thammasat University under the TU New Scholar Research Grant, No. 7/2560.


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