Temitope E. Famodu

Temitope E. Famodu, UCI global and international studies fourth-year Ph.D. candidate, has been named a 2024-25 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Hungary. The honor will support her research efforts and travel to understand how the embodied experiences of Nigerian students in postsocialist Hungary navigate and make place during their educational experiences at the University of Debrecen, Hungary. Below, Famodu explains her work and how UCI’s Department of Global and International Studies has played a prominent role in her success.

Q: Tell us about your research. What problem will your findings help solve?

A: This research project considers how the embodied experiences of Nigerian students in postsocialist Hungary navigate and make place during their educational experiences at the University of Debrecen. Through this project, I hope to learn more about the transnational relational networks that underpin the education-migration pipeline from Nigeria to its global diasporas. By studying how a place is constructed through multiscale relations – among individuals, institutions, and built and natural environments – I hope to spatialize the processes of connection that have sustained Nigerian student migration for decades. In so doing I consider how thinking with and about Blackness from geographies typically not associated with the African diaspora, tells us about the study of Black geographies at large. What happens when we think about the deep and rich scholarship put forth about Black placemaking through the specificities of the production of race and whiteness in post-socialist spaces? Whether or not you are a student who has traveled from Lagos to Debrecen for college, the social and spatial relationships that punctuate our livingness provide insight about how people navigating and building systems shift our geographic futures in potentially unexpected ways. 

Q: What made you decide to pursue your current field of study, and specifically at UCI?

A: My dad moved to Minnesota from Nigeria at 18 years old to begin college and has maintained a strong connection with other Nigerians who moved to Minnesota in the 1980s. I have always admired that my Minnesota Yoruba uncles continue to convene over the years, and I’m curious about how people in the Nigerian diaspora maintain similar connections in new places. Through Fulbright in Debrecen, Hungary, I will be focusing this curiosity to learn more about how global relational networks underpin the migration of Nigerian students there. I know from preliminary research that this will require multidisciplinary approaches, and I was, accordingly, drawn to UCI’s Global and International Studies Department because of its multidisciplinary possibilities. 

Q: What interests you most about your work?

A: My work is about relationships, which is something that everyone can connect to. Besides the relative affordability of university in Hungary, many Nigerian students choose to attend higher education in Hungary because they’ve heard from a friend, cousin, or church member who studied there before. Even though I didn’t know this when I myself studied abroad in Budapest during my senior year of undergrad, I learned I have an older cousin who studied there and now moves between Nigeria and Hungary. I look forward to connecting with him while working in Debrecen. These multigenerational and multiscale connections, seen all throughout the global Nigerian diaspora, are crucial sites of inquiry for questions about placemaking and identity. The Nigerian diaspora in Central and Eastern Europe is less considered than migrations to Western Europe and the United States, and the possibility of adding to this fairly under researched area of Black geographies excites me. I also look forward to exploring the historical linkages between Nigeria and Hungary, particularly through socialist worldmaking projects. 

Q: What unique life experiences have guided your educational journey?

A: I spent a few years in England with my family as a child. My younger brothers and I attended public school together and adapted to life in a small town with new surroundings and friends. Being a Black child in a small-town British school presented many an opportunity to understand (and experience) how race functioned differently there than in our Minnesota hometown. I think back to our time in England often and attribute much of my comparative analysis to these early experiences negotiating identity. Years later when I studied abroad in Budapest, Hungary, as an undergraduate, I continued to take up questions around Blackness, this time in Eastern Europe. Attending the “Black Europe Summer School” in Amsterdam, Netherlands, during graduate school offered a crucial consolidation of my research questions and underscored a dearth of scholarship about Blackness in Central and Eastern Europe.

Q: Where can your work be found if someone wanted to learn more about your research?

A: Famodu, T. and L. Famodu (2022) Book Review Forum. [Review of the book: Dear Science and Other Stories by K. McKittrick] Antipode Online Book Review Forum,


Q: In addition to Fulbright, what organizations, foundations, etc. have funded your research while you’ve been at UCI? 

A: The Central European University Summer University; Mellon Foundation; UCI Center for Liberation, Anti-racism and Belonging; UCI SOAR; and UCI Consortium on Power and Identity

Q: Can you give us a quick list of your student and campus accomplishments and activities?

A: 2022-2023: Pre-Dissertation fellow: Mellon Sawyer Seminar Speaker Series: Black Reconstruction as a Portal 

2023-2024: Research Fellow: UCI Center for Liberation, Antiracism and Belonging 

Q: When do you plan to complete your Ph.D.? What are your plans thereafter? How has UCI prepared you well for this role?

A: During the summer of 2024, I will attend a summer school at Central European University to explore themes of authoritarianism in Hungary, then separately, I will report to Budapest in September 2024 for Fulbright onboarding. Some of my favorite activities in Debrecen are tasting all of the delicious pastries at the péksegek, learning more about the town’s rich history, and engaging in local music and art. When I return from nine months of Fulbright-funded fieldwork, I plan to analyze my research findings and write up my dissertation in the 2025-2026 school year. I will continue researching and teaching in the realm of Black geographies looking at relationships and placemaking while thinking about alternate possibilities of history through socialist worldmaking projects.

Q: Who have been your faculty mentors while here, and what impact have they had on your graduate career?

A: Years of preliminary research have led me to this project, and I have tremendous gratitude for the community of support that has helped me get here. Dr. Heidi Nast, my undergraduate advisor at DePaul University in Chicago where I earned my bachelor’s in international studies, initially encouraged my inquiry into the production of race in Hungary in 2014 and has since remained an important mentor and friend. My dissertation advisor, Dr. Yousuf Al-Bulushi, my committee members, Dr. Eve Darian-Smith and Dr. Mamyrah Prosper, and the many support staff—all of the Department of Global and International Studies—were diligently supportive as I prepared, revised, and submitted this application. It is a lot easier to navigate the bewildering processes of grant applications knowing I have a team of support behind me. To the friends, colleagues, roommates, partners, family members, and strangers who have nurtured and encouraged my creative inquiry over the years, thank you!  

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