Stephen Agahi-Murphy

Stephen Agahi-Murphy


I hold a BA (Hons) in Psychology and Sociology and an MSc in Politics with Research Methods. With experience in the social and political sciences, I have developed a broad interest in how individual livelihoods, institutional practices and community dynamics are shaped by broader processes of social transformation. In academic and policy environments, I have utilised quantitative and qualitative methodologies to examine how migration processes interact with education, integration and development in both 'sending' and 'receiving' societies. Moving forward, my research interests seek to transcend 'for' or 'against' perspectives on migration and to better understand the forces, conditions and policies that shape -- and are shaped by -- (im)mobility. 

Research interests

Through a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches, my PhD research is focused on the relationship between migration processes, educational experiences, and the transformation of rural livelihoods in Eastern Uganda. 

Uganda provides an interesting context to examine this interplay, where 76% of its population currently resides in rural settings (UNDESA 2018). However, Uganda’s urban population has risen from 7.5% in 1980 to 24% in 2018, and the UN projects that Uganda’s rural settings will decline to such an extent that its urban population will reach more than 44% by 2050. Indeed, in the past decade alone, the population of Uganda’s urban areas has risen by an average of 300,000 people per year. Despite these stark figures, there is a dearth of information and insight on this rapidly changing reality, the tension between rural and urban life, and in particular the process of internal and international migration that lies at its heart. To put it simply: if the future of Uganda is urban, what, then, is the fate of its villages? While Uganda offers interesting insights into this, the process of rural-urban transformation is one that is experienced across the world. 

The theoretical thrust of my enquiry is twofold. Firstly, I am drawing on the notion of aspirations, closely related to Appadurai's work on the capacity to aspire, who describes how aspirations are formed in 'the thick of social life' and are part of a system of ideas that exist within a broader culture. This concept holds particular relevance for how varying forms of education shape the broader aspirations of young people in different ways (relating to notions of the 'good life') and how this subsequently impacts the aspiration to stay, to leave, or both. Secondly -- and closely related -- is that of the capability approach [as originally conceived by Sen and Nussbaum], as a framework for analysing the experience of educational processes [curricula, pedagogical principles, teaching, enhanced capabilities] and addressing what individuals are able 'to do' and 'to be' in villages as they navigate the tensions between rural and urban life.