Profile: On the Level with Dr Patricia Daley


‘On the Level’ is a series of interview style profiles highlighting individuals whose work or campaigning is a model to inspire and engage our communities. Here Patricia Daley shares her views.

Dr Patricia Daley (pictured above) is a University Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Oxford & Official Fellow, Jesus College, Oxford.

She taught at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, USA, and at Loughborough University, UK before her present role at Oxford.

Doctor Daley describes herself as a Pan-Africanist and a feminist and says that of the highlights of her life so far was to participate in the 7th Pan-Africanist Congress, in Kampala, Uganda, in April 1994.

Not one to engage in unnecessary conversation, describing her extensive work in a nutshell, she says, ‘her research specialisms are at the intersection between development, forced migration, gender, warfare, and the environment in Sub-Saharan Africa’. 

She has published extensively on refugee migration and integration in Africa, and on war and peacemaking in Central Africa.

Her most recent book is entitled Gender and Genocide: the Search for Spaces of Peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and is published by James Currey, UK; Indiana University Press, USA & Fontana, Uganda. 

What inspired or triggered your interest in your present career?

I became interested in the plight of African refugees long before the subject became of popular academic pursuit.  I went into research from a social justice perspective, wanting to better understand the condition of exile. I had two great teachers at school who inspired me with their enjoyment of their subjects and the fact that they cared about the development of their pupils as individuals. I wanted to be like them. Being a university lecturer enables me to combine these two interests.

What is your proudest achievement, and how do you regard failure?

Getting my doctorate at Oxford was my proudest achievement, especially because I came from a rural Jamaican and working class background. I was the first in my extended family to go to university.

Failure is not a word which is common to my vocabulary. When it happens, I see it as something that provides lessons from which I can learn.

Which political/prominent figure do you admire most for their vision or achievement?

At the moment, I admire Barack and Michelle Obama. However, I have more admiration for poor people who struggle each day to survive against all odds.

How would you explain your success; how much is due to luck and how much to hard work?

I would say 95 per cent hard work and 5 per cent luck. Actually, it is difficult to quantify. I was lucky to have entered higher education at a time when it was free and to have access to scholarships. Meeting key supportive people at critical moments in my life was also luck. The rest is due to hard work, being prepared to knuckle down, and keeping my focus on my goals.

What in your opinion is the most significant political milestone of the last decade, and will it change the future?

The election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the USA

There might not be great transformations in economic or political policy, but the racial significance is phenomenal, as it will help to challenge perceptions of black people globally.

What do you think is key to building a harmonious multi-cultural Britain?

For political parties to stop using race to gain political capital; that’s racism, and it sanctions, if inadvertently, racism in the wider society - and they are basically discounting the worth of their non-white voters

If you were able to introduce a law what would that be?

Banning political parties from playing the race card

The American people did not expect President Obama’s timely arrival; do you think such a surprise is possible for Britain within the next fifteen years?

Yes, because the electorate seems to be crying out for an alternative form of politics and leadership.

Which book or film would you encourage everyone to read or see and why?

There are too many. The book that changed my worldview at 16 years of age was Frantz Fanon, The wretched of the Earth. However, having just read Marlon James’s novel, The Book of Night Women, it would be a great one to start with, because through its fictional characters, it explores slavery in Jamaica in the late 18th and early 19th century, especially the condition of life on a slave plantation from a woman’s perspective, and  because it’s historically accurate, those people who don’t know our history would see how much we suffered and understand the need for apology and reparations, without having to read an academic tome.

What are your thoughts on Africa redevelopment?

Primarily that Africa can only develop through the agency of its people acting together, not from external aid and expertise;

The emancipation of women is essential to counter the dehumanization and militarization of Africa;

Supporters of Africa have to better understand the ways in which it is integrated into the global economic system, in order to transform those relationships that are unfavourable to the development of the continent.

Africa desperately needs leaders who put the well-being of their citizens above personal gain.

You are given £50,000 to spend half on a charitable cause(s) and half on yourself.  How would you spend it?

I would use it to educate as many school kids in Africa as possible, and I would extend my kitchen, so that I have more room to cook and entertain my family, friends and colleagues.

Is there a goal that that you would yet like to achieve?

I am not yet at the top of my career ladder. I would be good to get a Professorial Chair.

What would you like to be remembered for?

My concern for social justice and treating my fellow human beings with dignity

Tell us something about you that we don’t know.

I am the first black woman to be appointed University Lecturer at Oxford

Note: Dr Daley was born in Jamaica and attended primary and secondary schools in Hackney, London.

She continued her higher education at Middlesex Polytechnic, Goldsmith’s College, School of Oriental and African Studies, and Oxford University.

She has taught a range of human geography topics, as well as specialist courses on African societies and environments. At Jesus College she held the administrative posts of Tutor for Admissions (1999-2002) and Tutor for Women (1998-2004).

Board memberships include charitable organizations such as the Windle Trust and currently Chair of the Board of Fahamu Trust, which publishes the online Pan-African newsletter,; and a member of the interdisciplinary advisory board of the International Relations Journal, St Antony's International Review.

She was awarded an ESRC interdisciplinary seminar grant on African Environments. She chaired the African Environments Programme for the academic year 2006-7.

She acted as a consultant for an internationally-screened documentary film on the genocide in Rwanda (Rwanda: the Forgotten Tribe).

Her charitable work includes acting as a member of the advisory panels of the Windle Trust (formerly the Hugh Pilkington Charitable Trust), a non-governmental organization that provides scholarships to African Refugees and of 'Attaining the Peak', a student-led initiative to provide academic support and mentoring for youths in Oxford.

Dr Daley is a peer reviewer for Political Geography, Third World Quarterly, CODESRIA Journals, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, Journal of Southern African Studies, Journal of Refugee Studies, Ethics, Place and Environment, and the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. She has also peer reviewed grants for the ESRC and DfID.

Dr Daley’s hobbies are listening to music (Jazz, Reggae, Congolese), going to the cinema, reading novels, walking, improving my Kiswahili, and travelling to a new place every year.

See other ‘On the Level’ profiles at: Our Communities