20 December 2023

Global Health Researcher Spotlight: Jacob Lind

Global Health Research

Meet Jacob Lind, a Postdoc at Malmö University in Sweden and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. In this Spotlight, Jacob will share his decade-long research dedicated to understanding the everyday lives of migrants in vulnerable situations with uncertain legal statuses, in which health issues are woven into political processes.

Jacob Lind
Jacob Lind

Tell us about your research

My research in the last 10 years has in different ways addressed the everyday lives of migrants in vulnerable situations with uncertain legal statuses. I have primarily focused on children, young people and families and the specific challenges and political issues that they are affected by. Global health is not the starting point for my research – I am primarily interested in the political processes through which undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and other categories of migrants are governed and how that is connected to everyday life experiences. However, restrictive migration regimes have severe negative impact on people’s wellbeing and one of the initial motivations for why I started doing research in this context came from encountering the suffering experienced by migrants who are threatened by deportation.

Restrictive migration regimes have severe negative impact on people’s wellbeing and one of the initial motivations for why I started doing research in this context came from encountering the suffering experienced by migrants who are threatened by deportation.

Jacob Lind

 I was the stereotypical political science student who wanted to “save the world”, but through my engagement in asylum activism I quickly realized that “the world” was not an abstract entity far away, it was right here in front of me – embodied in people coming to my neighborhood seeking protection.

Why is this research important?

As I processed my “white savior complex”, I realized that global processes of inequality and injustices are strongly connected to nationalism, welfare chauvinism and the securitization of borders across the global north. So, I set out to investigate how this paradigm could be challenged in the context of irregular migration. Through my research, I saw how human rights, and especially children’s rights, are central in the political processes through which the presence of people lacking the correct paperwork are negotiated. The question of how human and children’s rights are mobilized for governing migrants with precarious legal status has therefore become a central issue for me. I believe there is an acute need for a reflexive discussion about the role of human rights in global migration control regimes. Actors aiming to protect and extend the reach of human rights for migrants need to be aware about and prepare counter arguments for when those who want to restrict people’s ability to move and seek refuge weaponize a human rights discourse to further their own restrictive agenda. This question of how human rights are mobilized to restrict migrants’ territorial presence and mobility also have large implications for political processes concerning global health.

What excites you about your work and your research?

Right now, I feel extremely privileged to be allowed talk to young people about their childhoods spent in asylum camps in Denmark or as undocumented migrants in Sweden. The participants are being extremely open and generous when telling me their life stories and it is a huge responsibility to write about this material in a way that does their experiences justice. I am currently deep into processing the initial interviews I have done with my 23 participants and preparing the second interview I will do with them to enable a better understanding of how their experiences of fearing deportation for an extended time period as children impact them today.

Which achievements do you hope to see within your research field 10 years from now?

Since I only have one year left on my Post Doc contract and the academic work market is very precarious, it is difficult to project what my future will be. But I hope that I will be able to continue to do research and inform the public about the effects of restrictive migration regimes and how it affects us all. I am not so much focused on becoming professor or getting prestigious positions – my main hope is that I will be able to continue to do something meaningful in my role as an academic and contribute with knowledge that is relevant and useful for those who want the world to be more just and equal – and who see the responsibility affluent countries and regions have for creating such a world.

What advice do you have for junior researchers in global health?

Do not focus too much on your career but focus on studying and writing about the things you care about and that makes you engaged. It is easy to be disillusioned by academia and it is not the only place where you can contribute to the world. If you are lucky, you will get the opportunity to continue doing research you are interested in. But if you are not lucky, it is not a failure to exit academia to work somewhere where your talents and drive gets the attention it deserves. All the talk about excellence in academia is only there to make those who were lucky enough to get a position or a grant feel better about themselves. If you reach a reasonable level of proficiency at what you do, the only thing you can do is to submit grant and job applications and hope that the stars are aligned for you.

What is your favorite source of global health inspiration and knowledge?

I can recommend a book that I quote a lot that discusses the role of human rights in the world that is a useful read for anyone who wants to understand the human rights paradigm also in relation to global health: Moyn, S. (2018). Not enough: Human rights in an unequal world. Harvard University Press.

Contact

Jacob Lind, jacob.lind@mau.se

Post Doc at Malmö University and Copenhagen University.

Learn more about Jacob's research here.

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