EUniWell Open Lecture Series: Well-being, Education and Young Refugees


University of Birmingham Online EUniWell-Event

Under the title ‘Where The Straight Path Was Lost - Migration, Storytelling and the Pursuit of Well-being’, Dr Jennifer Allsopp spoke on well-being, education and young refugees as part of the EUniWell Open Lecture Series on Thursday, 27 January 2022.

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Lecturer: Dr Jennifer Allsopp
Moderator: Prof Nando Sigona
Related EUniWell Arena: 2) Individual and Social Well-being


About this lecture:

‘Where The Straight Path Was Lost’
Migration, Storytelling and the Pursuit of Well-being

Though they are sometimes thought to be the domain of the humanities, stories are serious business for everyone who cares about the well-being of individuals and communities, including those of us who seek to shape social policy. Stories structure how we make sense of ourselves and our place in the world; they inspire us to make choices and take risks; and they shape how we receive and respond to others at the personal level and at the level of society. As individuals embarking on a new path in the pursuit of safety and well-being, migrants depend on storytelling for their success, and in many cases, for their survival. Drawing on ten years of research conducted across multiple sites, including immigration detention centres, refugee camps and Europe’s land and air borders, this interdisciplinary lecture will consider the important work of storytelling as it relates to the pursuit of well-being among migrants and refugees. Warning against the danger of the single story, the lecture concludes by identifying the critical – but diminishing  – role of sanctuary spaces where migrants’ stories can be told and entertained in all of their complexity including, among others, universities themselves. 

Research background:

Dr Jennifer Allsopp is a Vice Chancellor's Birmingham Fellow at the University of Birmingham, UK.  Alongside being a Birmingham Fellow, Jennifer is a Senior Visiting Fellow with the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research and a regular advisor to the European Parliament. 

Before joining Birmingham, Jennifer worked for two years at Harvard University as a Postdoctoral Fellow in International Migration and Coordinator of the Immigration Initiative at Harvard (IIH) where she led the global Immigration Fellows program and policy research brief series. She also organised a global online conference which attracted a live audience of 700 early career scholars from across the five continents. Prior to this, Jennifer worked as a Research Fellow with the London International Development Centre Migration Leadership Team (LIDC-MLT) where she co-developed a participatory strategy for global migration research for the United Kingdom’s Economic and Social, and Arts and Humanities Research Councils. As part of this work, Jennifer co-convened migration conversations with a range of stakeholders in 12 locations around the world including in Delhi, Nairobi, Medellin, London, New York, Thessaloniki, Barcelona, Brussels, Beirut and Johannesburg

Jennifer’s research centres on how people move and mobilise to support what they perceive to be viable futures for themselves, their families and their societies in the context of migration. Her past work explored the relationship between immigration control, welfare and well-being, with a focus on gender, aging, and the politics of membership and belonging. She is currently working on monograph on the topic of storytelling and migration.

A keen advocate of collaborative working, Jennifer’s first book, Policing Humanitarianism: EU Anti-Smuggling Policies and their Impact on Civil Society (Hart, 2019) explores the nexus between the anti-smuggling policies of the European Union’s Home Affairs agencies and its Member States, and the policing and criminalisation of humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees. It reports on extensive fieldwork which she conducted in Hungary and Serbia, Italy, Greece, the UK and France between 2015 and 2018 at the height of the so-called European ‘refugee crisis’.

Jennifer’s second book, Youth Migration and the Politics of Wellbeing (Bristol University Press, 2020) is co-authored with Dr Elaine Chase. It is the product of a cutting-edge four-year participatory research project, Becoming Adult, which examined the well-being trajectories of over 100 unaccompanied young migrants and refugees in Europe. Jennifer is a regular advisor to the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties (LIBE) Committee on ethics, anti-smuggling and human rights and has contributed to multiple government inquiries into migration and the human rights of children and young people.


This lecture was part of the EUniWell Open Lecture Series. Find the full programme here.