The Doctoral Project

For the last ten years,  I have found myself at the intersection of youth education, development, environment, policy and governance. I call myself an interdisciplinary scholar as I have never been comfortable in one field of study. I started out in 2009 with a four-year Bachelors in Environmental Sciences which I thoroughly enjoyed because it was alongside multifarious educational, activism, and development work. In 2011-2013, I sort of took the first step to try and specialize in  the policy field. But as soon as I wrote my MPhil thesis, it was clear that, that direction was never the only one I would take. 
So I ended up accepting the offer for Oxford's DPhil in Geography and the Environment. For three years, my doctoral project brought together all my interest areas into one  ambitious research project on investigating the changing aspirations of educated youth in contemporary Africa. I started with something like 'Young elites, livelihoods and politics in Africa' but eventually submitted my thesis with the title 'Educated Youth in Kenya: Negotiating Waithood by Greening Livelihoods'. I am still wondering how I coined this title, but yes, it does work for my research interests and the interdisciplinary subjects I address. With this research, and with my title of a Geographer, several issues are of priority focus in the thesis and future research interests:- 
1. Youth, was my priority academic concern. I was interested in the agency of the young people in Africa who were finding it hard to transition into adulthood. 
2.Elites, because I research educated young people. The role of education in enlightenment, or the perceived benefits of education to society are of critical significance in understanding the role and contribution of education to young people, the over 40% of the continent's population.
3. Livelihoods, because I am more interested in the diversity of strategies that young people pursue to earn a living. Because youth-hood is now prolonged, young people have to fed themselves and opportunities to do so are all the more constrained. Because they have to support their families and still they are only found in marginal places. What multiple strategies are they employing to emerge with new identities in this contemporary society?
4. Politics, because it enabled me ask those deeper questions on the African society, the political economy, policies and governance in regions where I am researching. It is about who is represented by who and for what benefit/implications. Its about the politics of belonging and growing up in Africa. Its about the politics of earning a living and becoming a respectable and dependable individual in society. It's about the politics of governing Africa's resources where the majority of the inhabitants are actually marginalized.
5. Africa, because the significance to this research, is my interest to contribute to the future of development and governance of this continent through my research. I ask myself if my findings will fit in the politics of Africa development and governance. I ask if the voice of the young elites I am researching will be heard through this research. I ask if education will meet the aspirations of African youth in changing, liberalized and precarious economies. That's why this research is based on the African continent.

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for the brilliant work, Dr Grace Gmwaura! We share many common interests in youth development, graduate (un)employment, politics and entrepreneurial narrative.