Nair, Parvati

Special Advisor on Migration

UNU Publications
Selected NON-UNU Publications
  • Parvati Nair
    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

    Research Interests

    • Cities
    • Gender
    • Migration


    • Ph.D, Spanish Cultural Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London
    • MA in the Teaching of Foreign Languages and Literature (Institute of Education, University of London, 1993)
    • RSA/UCLES Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults (1991)
    • Institute of Linguists Final Diploma in Spanish (1987)
    • BA Hons. Spanish with French Subsidiary (First in the University of London, Distinction in Oral Spanish. Westfield College, University of London, 1981)


    • 2012-2018: Founding Director, United Nations University Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility (UNU-GCM), Barcelona, Spain.
    • 2009-2012: Director of the Centre for the Study of Migration, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Queen Mary University of London.
    • 2007-Present: Professor of Hispanic, Cultural and Migration Studies, School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, Queen Mary University of London.
    • 2006-2007: Reader in Hispanic Cultural Studies, School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, Queen Mary University of London
    • 2004-2006: Senior Lecturer in Hispanic Studies, School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, Queen Mary, University of London
    • 2000-2004: Lecturer in Hispanic Studies, Queen Mary, University of London
    • 1995-2000: Senior Lecturer in Spanish, London Guildhall University
    • 1993-1995: Lecturer in Hispanic Studies, Thames Valley University

    Biographical Statement

    Parvati Nair is a cultural specialist who works on the nexus of migration and culture. Her interests lie in the dynamics of migration at grass-roots level, in the intersections of the global and the local through migration, as well as in the ways in which borders function as points of contact, passage and obstruction. Her work aims to construct a better understanding of how policies and practices shape one another, affecting both the ways in which migrants, refugees and strangers may relocate and how communities, localities and places evolve through the movements and weaves of people. She has taught and published widely on sociocultural aspects of migration, with a particular interest in the visual representations of displacement, especially photography.

    Parvati Nair joined UNU in 2012 to found and direct the United Nations University Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility (UNU-GCM), based in Barcelona. In 2019, she joined the UNU Vice-Rectorate in Europe as Special Adviser on Migration. At UNU, she has led policy-relevant research in the areas of migration and gender, migration and cities, statelessness, and intercultural dialogue. In 2017, she was involved in coordinating UNU’s Chairmanship of the Global Migration Group, a forum of twenty-two agencies of the United Nations system, working at the time towards supporting the processes that led to the adoption in 2018 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Her current role includes supporting UNU’s continued focus on and expertise in migration, together with engagement with the UN system on the topic in a shared effort to ensure good governance.

    She is on secondment from Queen Mary University of London, where she remains as Professor of Hispanic, Cultural and Migration Studies, engaging in research and doctoral supervision.

    Notable among Parvati Nair’s publications is her book A Different Light: The Photography of Sebastião Salgado (2011, Duke University Press), which considered root drivers of mass global displacement, such as poverty, conflict, inequalities and climate change, through photography. In 2018, she co-authored, together with Dr. Rebecca Brubaker of UNU-CPR, a key report on the role of the media in representing migration, so as to better address xenophobia. As well as being on the editorial boards of several journals, she is also the founder and Principal Editor of the refereed academic journal Crossings: Journal of Migration and Culture. Parvati Nair has also published in the media and other non-academic forums.

    Parvati Nair is a national of the United Kingdom and an Overseas Citizen of India. She was born in Oslo, Norway and spent her childhood and adolescence in India, Poland, Morocco, Tunisia and Spain. She has a good knowledge of several languages and is bilingual in English and Spanish.

    In her role as Special Advisor on Migration, Parvati will support UNU’s continued engagement in global processes on international migration, especially in relation to the follow-up to the two global compacts adopted by Member States in late 2018 on shared responsibility for refugees and on safe, orderly and regular migration. Working with Sebastian von Einsiedel, the Vice-Rector in Europe, and drawing on her own research as well as that of other UNU institutes working on migration-related issues, her role aims to ensure that UNU’s work in this field will inform ongoing policy processes at the UN and beyond.

  • Articles


    Book Chapters



  • Articles

    • ‘The Body Politic of Dissent: the Paperless and the Indignant,’ Citizenship Studies, Volume 16, Numbers 5-6, 1 August 2012 , pp. 783-792
    • ‘Islamigration or the Other Within: Testing the Limits of European Democracy and Tolerance’, in Revista de Derecho Migratorio y Extranjería, Volume 21, July 2009, 11-20
    • ‘Autography from the Margins,’ Hispanic Research Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2008, 181-190
    • ‘The Regard of the Gypsy: Ramón Zabalza’s gitano photographs and the visual challenge to the stereotype’ in Prácticas de poder y estrategias de resistencia en la España democrática, edited by Óscar Cornago Bernal, special issue of Iberoamericana, 24.4, 2006
    • ‘Voicing Risk: migration, transgression and relocation in Spanish/Moroccan raï’ in Interventions, Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Volume 8, Issue 1, Summer 2006, 67-82
    • ‘Moor-Veiled Matters: the hijab as troubling interrogative of the relation between the West and Islam’, new formations, no. 51, winter 2003-2004, 39-49
    • ‘Memory in Motion: Ethnicity, Hybridity and Globalization in Self-Photographs of Moroccan Immigrants in Spain’, Journal of Romance Studies, Vol.3.1, 2003, 73-86
    • ‘In Modernity’s Wake: transculturality, deterritorialization and the question of community in Lasflores de otro mundo’, in Postscript, April 2002, 38-49
    • ‘Straddling the personal and the public: elastic boundaries or a case-study of two gitana daughters of reknowned flamencos’ in Journal of the Institute of Romance Studies, Spring 2001, 49-63
    • ‘Albums of No Return: Ethnicity, Displacement and Recognition in Photographs of Moroccan Immigrants in Spain’, Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, 1, March 2000, 59-73
    • ‘Between Being and Becoming: an ethnographic examination of border crossings in Alma gitana (Chus Gutiérrez, 1995)’, Tesserae, Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies, 5:2, December 1999, 173-188


    • A Different Light: The Photography of Sebastião Salgado, 2011, Durham and London: Duke University Press.
    • Rumbo al norte: inmigración y movimientos culturales entre el Magreb y España, 2006, Barcelona: Edicions Bellaterra
    • Configuring Community: Theories, Narratives and Practices of Community Identities in Contemporary Spain, 2004, London: Modern Humanities Research Association
    • Gender and Spanish Cinema, co-edited with Steven Marsh, 2004, Oxford: Berg Publishers

    Book Chapters

    • ‘Reconfiguring the Rural: Fettered Geographies, Unsettled Histories and the Abyss of Alienation in Recent Socially Engaged Cinema from Spain,’ in Julian Guierrez-Albilla and Parvati Nair (eds)., Hispanic and Lusophone Women Filmmakers: Critical Discourses and Cinematic Practices (in press, Manchester: Manchester University Press, forthcoming in 2012)
    • ‘Postcolonial Theories of Migration: Historicizing Displacement, Dissonance and Difference,’ in Immanuel Ness (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Global Human Migration (forthcoming in 2012, Oxford: Wiley Blackwell)
    • ‘After-Images: Trauma, History and Connection in the Photography of Alfredo Jaar,’ chapter in The Eyes of Gutete Emerita, 2010, edited by Pamela Prado, Santiago de Chile: Dirac Publishers, 63-78
    • ‘Trazar frontera: inmigración y movimientos culturales en España,’ chapter in Irene Blásquez and Ángel Chueca (editors), Migraciones internacionales en el Mediterráneo y UE: un reto, 2009, p.11-21
    • ‘Europe’s “Last” Wall: Contiguity, Exchange and Heterotopia in Ceuta, the Confluence of Europe and North Africa” in Border Interrogations edited by Simon Doubleday and Benita Sampedro, Oxford, Berghahn Publishers, 2008, 15-41
    • ‘Voicing Risk: Displacement and Relocation in Spanish-Moroccan Raï’ in Between the Local and the Global: Popular Music and National Identity edited by Ian Biddle and Vanessa Knights, London: Ashgate, 2007, 65-80
    • ‘Fotografía en torno al Estrecho,’ in Dos siglos de imágenes de Andalucía edited by Alberto Egea, Sevilla, Centro de Estudios Andaluces, 2006
    • ‘Travelling Song: Music, Iteration and Translation in La leyenda del tiempo (The Legend of Time, Isaki Lacuesta, 2006)’, in Rob Stone and Lisa Shaw (eds.), Screening Songs (forthcoming in 2012, Manchester: Manchester University Press)
    • ‘Border-Line Men: Gender, Place and Power in Representations of Moroccans in Recent Spanish Cinema’ in Gender and Spanish Cinema edited by Parvati Nair and Steven Marsh, Oxford, Berg Publishers, 2004, 103-118
    • ‘Elusive song: flamenco as field and negotiation among the gitanos in Córdoba prison’, in Constructing Identity in Twentieth Century Spain: Theoretical debates and Narrative Practices, ed. Jo Labanyi, Oxford University Press, 2002
    • ‘Homing the Other: the Immigrant as New European’ in David Planell’s Bazar in Beyond Boundaries, ed. Andy Hollis, Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, December 2000
    • ‘Displacing the Hero: Masculine Ambivalence in the Cinema of Luis García Berlanga’ in Entertaining Ideologies: 100 Years of European Cinema, ed. D. Holmes,Manchester: Manchester University Press,June 2000
    • ‘Vocal In-roads: Flamenco, Orality and Postmodernity in Las 3000 Viviendas: Viejo Patio (EMI, 1999)’ in Music, Culture, Identity, edited by Richard Young Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, 2002