The ‘covidisation’ of migration and health research

Thea de Gruchy, Jo Vearey, Kavita Datta, Elaine Chase and Linda Musariri (2024). Chapter 3: The ‘covidisation’ of migration and health research: understanding the implications of the pandemic for the field. In Marie McAuliffe & Céline Bauloz (Eds) Research Handbook on Migration, Gender, and COVID-19. Edward Elgar Publishing: UK.

Covid-19 has affected most fields of research, including migration and health. Migrant and mobile populations have faced particular challenges during the pandemic, but research with these populations, whilst imperative, has been practically and ethically challenging. Challenges have also been exacerbated by the ‘covidisation’ of research and funding cuts. In addition, the pandemic has affected researchers both personally and professionally. To explore these effects, we organised a series of consultations and interviews with researchers in the field. Our research shows that researchers are concerned with the impact of the pandemic on: 1) research progress; (2) research ethics; (3) funder relationships; (4) working online; (5) partnerships and collaborations; (6) the next generation of researchers; and (7) how researchers will move forward as the pandemic progresses. This chapter details these concerns, including the ways in women have been disproportionately affected. We conclude by highlighting the key challenges and opportunities for the field.

About Thea de Gruchy

Thea de Gruchy is a postdoctoral researcher at the ACMS working on migration and health. Since the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic in South Africa, much of Thea's work has pivoted to exploring the effect of the pandemic and implications of the South African state's response to the pandemic for migrant and mobile populations. As part of this work, Thea helps to coordinate the Migration and Coronavirus in Southern African group (MiCoSA).

Her PhD research, which was supervised by Jo Vearey, funded by the Wellcome Trust and part of the Migration and Health Project (maHp) at ACMS, centred on questions of policy process and asked how policy is made and influenced in South Africa. In 2015 and the beginning of 2016, Thea worked with Ingrid Palmary to answer some of these questions and inform a conceptual framework on how policy is made in South Africa using the Trafficking in Persons Act of 2013 as a case study. Her doctoral work uses a case study of health and occupational safety policy in the South African agricultural sector to elaborate on and develop this framework.

Thea’s MA, which was funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF), focused on the immigration industry and the relationship between the state, immigration intermediaries, and migrants. Part of this research explored the increasing precarity experienced by immigrants in South Africa as a result of changing and increasingly stringent immigration policy and regulations. Having received a Faculty of Humanities Ad Hoc Grant from the University of the Witwatersrand for 2016 to follow on with some of this research and as part of the Security at the Margins (SeaM) project – a collaborative project between ACMS and the Centre for African Studies at the University of Edinburgh – she continues to be interested in the relationship between policy, specifically policy framed in terms of security, and the precarity of marginalised and vulnerable groups.

Thea currently co-ordinates the PhD Work in Progress seminars at the ACMS.