Q&A with Megan Ryburn

Investigating migration and citizenship in Latin America

Megan is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at LSE's Latin America and Caribbean Centre

Sometimes you need to abandon pre-conceived ideas that may be holding you back and follow what participants, or your data, are telling you.

Megan Ryburn

What are you currently researching?

My work focuses on migration and citizenship in Latin America, and increasingly on violence and borderlands. I have just published my first book, based on my PhD, entitled Uncertain Citizenship: Everyday Practices of Bolivian Migrants in Chile. My current project, funded by the British Academy, addresses how Colombian migrant women in Antofagasta, Chile navigate contexts of structural, and sometimes physical, violence across borders.

Migration in Latin America is increasing and diversifying rapidly, and Chile is an emblematic example – the number of migrants entering the country has almost quintupled in the past two decades. Within this dynamic and shifting context, some groups experience significant exclusions and discrimination. This can be the case for Colombian women migrants in the mining city of Antofagasta in northern Chile. My research aims to better understand and draw attention to their lived experiences.

What attracted you to this area of research?

Since I was an undergraduate at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, I have been interested in migration issues, and for my dissertation I conducted an oral history project with Chilean refugees in Christchurch. I then moved to Chile where I volunteered from 2009 to 2011 with a migrant organisation, with which I still collaborate.

I became interested in the challenges faced by migrants to the country, and I also learned that South-South migration – which accounts for around 50% of migration globally – is a severely under-researched area. This motivated me to pursue studies in the field, which I did through a Masters and a PhD in the UK.

How will your research improve or have a wider impact on society?

I really hope that my research will help to amplify the voices of the migrants I work with, and in doing so challenge some of the exclusions that they face. To achieve this, it’s fundamental to work collaboratively with other organisations, researchers, and institutions.

What do you hope to do career-wise, long term?

I hope to continue to pursue a career in academia that allows me to continue my research, but also to teach, which I really enjoy – it’s motivating and stimulating.

What are your top three tips to prospective students on the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?

I am an inveterate list writer and organiser, and, whilst I think I sometimes take it a bit too far(!), having an organised approach to research is important. Having said that, being flexible is also key. Sometimes you need to abandon pre-conceived ideas that may be holding you back and follow what participants, or your data, are telling you. Finally, it’s fundamental to allow yourself time to look after your mental and physical health – your research is important, but your health is more so.

What resources are available at LSE to help young researchers?

The mentoring and support I have received from colleagues in the Latin America and Caribbean Centre and in the Department of Geography and Environment, where I was previously an LSE Fellow, has been fundamental to my development as a researcher, and as a teacher. Colleagues in Research Division have also been incredibly supportive and helpful throughout the process of applying to postdoctoral fellowships.