By Elizabeth Howell
Two Carleton scholars are recipients of prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships. It’s a federal government program intended to give scholars a suitable environment to extend their research and potentially benefit Canada’s economy as well.
Nduka Otiono and Martin Geiger will work at Carleton until 2014 in their respective fields. Both international scholars, they say the Banting provided them with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to access leading research at Carleton.
Otiono, a former Nigerian journalist, became fascinated with how stories affect society as they leave the street level and enter the realm of the public, whether through the news media or in fields such as film and popular music.
Otiono joined Carleton from Brown University where he did a one-year postdoctoral research, and also completed a Ph.D. at the University of Alberta.
His fascination with narration also came through his fiction and poetry work; among other achievements, he’s the author of The Night Hides with a Knife, an anthology of short stories that won the Association of Nigerian Authors Spectrum Prize.
“With the Banting Fellowship, I’m hoping to extend my work beyond Nigeria and West Africa into representative cities across the rest of Africa,” says Otiono, who is working closely with Pius Adesanmi, a professor in the Department of English with affiliation to Carleton’s Institute of African Studies.
Otiono … became fascinated with how stories affect society as they leave the street level and enter the realm of the public
Otiono’s research particularly focuses on postcolonial African countries that are combating political tyranny, and transitioning to democracy, he points out.
He is looking forward to examining the role played by street stories from Cairo and other North African cities toward the spread of the popular uprisings during the Arab Spring in 2011. Additionally, he is interested in the African communities in Canadian cities such as Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton to see what kinds of street stories from the African continent may have survived in the diaspora.
“Stories are very powerful, and in most relationships and social situations, people use narratives to construct their social identities and to make critical political statements,” he says.
Carleton’s second Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship recipient, Martin Geiger, had already come into contact with Carleton researchers while at the University of Osnabrück in Germany working on migration and international security.
This great expertise on mobility and the securitization of mobility at Carleton explains a big part of his interest to come here, he says.
In the coming two years, Geiger will work closely with William Walters in the department of Political Science to determine how technology is affecting international migration movements.
He is interested in the African communities in Canadian cities … to see what kinds of street stories from the African continent may have survived in the diaspora.
Governments around the globe have started to adopt a wide range of new technologies. Biometric passports, NEXUS cards and other developments promise to ‘smarten’ up the border and fast track cross-border mobility, while at the same time keeping borders secure and preventing irregular forms of entry.
However, there is uncertainty about the effectiveness of new industrial products and their real effects on mobility flows, security and people’s privacy concerns.
“If you talk with policy makers, it’s unclear if border technologies keep track of security risks,” he says. “It is really an issue. We need to find out about the effectiveness and the ‘real-life’ effects of these technologies on people as well.”
Geiger, in his project, aims to scrutinize the role of Canadian, American and European industries in lobbying for new technologies.
His fieldwork includes stakeholder interviews with government officials, business representatives, civil society groups and other academics.
He will attend trade shows in Canada and Europe; planned also are round tables with security experts at Carleton and at international conferences.
“Carleton is a perfect place to do research, because several people here already work on migration and border politics, and the way technologies are changing state responses to mobility,” Geiger says.
Carleton is a perfect place to do research, because several people here already work on migration and border politics