Uma Kothari, 35

May 17, 1996

An ESRC studentship helped Uma Kothari spend time in India in the 1980s studying small peasant farmers who became quite wealthy from sugar cane production. Five years after gaining a PhD at Edinburgh for that research, she will see these people again - at Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

Kothari's new research project, "Migration, Culture and Identity: Experience of Contemporary Migrants to Britain", began last month and will finish in July 1997. Kothari, whose first degree in geography was from the then Middlesex Polytechnic, is now based at Manchester University's Institute for Development Policy and Management.

"When I was with the farmers in India," she says, "I discovered that almost every one had applied for a visa to Britain." But she could not cover this in her thesis. Her new project makes up for that by looking at the farmers' and their families' experiences of coming to Britain.

She will also question current migration theory. "Those farmers that are here are now much poorer than they were in India, for instance. They were brilliant farmers, who had never been to a city before."

Putting together her application for the ESRC grant was hard work. "It was all I did for a couple of weeks. I applied through the geography department, and it helped to talk to people who had made similar applications - there was a very useful support network. My institute puts in lots of bids for research funding, but this was quite different. It really made me focus my ideas." She did so much work that she hopes to use it as the basis of a journal article.

The grant money will mostly be spent on employing a research assistant, so Kothari will continue teaching short courses at her institute.

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