Citizenship elegy

In search of the elusive passport

Featured in

  • Published 20180501
  • ISBN: 9781925603323
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

FOR A MOMENT, as my plane finally descended into Canberra at the end of the long trip from Germany, I thought it must be making an emergency landing. I could see no trace of human life below. This seemingly uninhabited landscape was where I was to take up an Australian Government merit-based Endeavour Scholarship in 2006 to complete a PhD. I had no intention of staying in Australia for long, and definitely not forever. I spent the best part of the next four years writing my dissertation on the long-distance politics of the Acehnese diaspora at the Australian National University. It was a formative period in my life; I enjoyed it to a certain extent but did not want to stay a single day more than was absolutely necessary, and returned to Germany in March 2010 on completion of my thesis.

After a postdoctoral fellowship in Berlin, I landed a teaching position at the university in Heidelberg, which was no great improvement on my years in Canberra in terms of excitement beyond my academic pursuits. Thus, when the opportunity of a three-year research-only fellowship at the Melbourne Law School arose I jumped at the chance, and in June 2011 I travelled Down Under once again. For three years I studied the irregular movements of asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia, spending a lot of time doing fieldwork in Indonesia, publishing my insights, writing op-eds, giving radio interviews – doing everything I could to share my findings within academia and beyond. When the three years of my fellowship were up, I boldly applied for a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council (ARC). These sought-after grants are hard to get but, given the topicality of my research, I thought I should give it a try. The success of my application was topped off by the offer of a job at Monash University, putting me in the wonderful position of being able to continue my work – reading, writing and carrying out long stretches of fieldwork (as anthropologists do). By this time my focus had shifted to exploring people-smuggling networks in Indonesia.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at

Share article

About the author

Antje Missbach

Antje Missbach is a senior lecturer and research fellow at the School of Social Sciences, Monash University. She is the author of several books,...

More from this edition

Self-imagery and self-deception

EssayNations and peoples are largely the stories they feed themselves. If they tell themselves stories that are lies, they will suffer the future consequences...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.