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Faculty of Humanities

Uma Kothari

Uma Kothari, the born storyteller

Professor of Migration and Postcolonial Studies, School of Environment, Education and Development

Uma Kothari is a storyteller and adventurer, which comes as no surprise given that her parents when recently married boarded a steamer from Mumbai to Southampton in the 1950s and spent the next six months traveling overland back to India in a second-hand Morris Minor car.  At the time it was unusual for young Indians to go on a road trip purely for pleasure and not for work or for political reasons. Her parents' desire to explore, and their love of travel inspired her life as a geographer.

Uma feels that Manchester is the perfect place for her research given its colonial and postcolonial history symbolised by the Ship Canal and the legacy of the cotton industry as well as the various forms of progressive politics that emerged here, such as the Suffragette movement. And, she has personal connections to the city as her father came to Manchester in the early 1960s to set up a branch of the Bank of India and they visited regularly to watch the cricket at Old Trafford.

I am enthralled poring over documents in libraries and archives, and realise that in the end it's all about people and their stories.

Uma Kothari / Professor of Migration and Postcolonial Studies

To her, the University is also an inspiring place to work, and it seems appropriate that her office is in the Arthur Lewis Building, named after the first black professor.

For Uma, Geography and storytelling are inextricably linked. Each story reveals encounters between people and places and through these connections she feels that our understandings of the world become deeper and more complex. 

“I am enthralled poring over documents in libraries and archives, and realise that in the end it's all about people and their stories,” she said.