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Dr Sajida Ally

Post:Research Associate (Geography)
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Sajida Ally completed her PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex in January 2016 within the areas of Asian transnational labour migration and health and wellbeing, focusing on the intersections between embodied health experience, gender, kin and communal relations, and development interventions towards low-wage Sri Lankan Gulf-bound migrant workers. Prior to her PhD, she obtained an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the LSE (1998) and a BA in History and Psychology from Georgetown University (1997). She has also worked extensively in the NGO sector in migration with the Asian Migrant Centre (Hong Kong), Migrant Forum in Asia (Manila) and Migrants’ Rights International (Geneva). This work involved building international, multi-disciplinary networks for migration policy and service development, advocacy on migrants' human and labour rights, and developing institutional capacities of migrant workers’ organizations and trade unions. Her professional, research and fieldwork experiences span Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Hong Kong, Manila, Macau, the Mekong sub-region, India and the U.A.E among other countries and global regions.

Sajida’s doctoral research project—entitled Sri Lankan Migrant Women Between Kalpitiya & Kuwait: Aspirations for Wellness (Suham). Re-constructions of ‘Migrants’ Health’—built on her first-hand experience of Asian migration and labour rights advocacy, and her ethnographic fieldwork in Sri Lanka and Kuwait over two years. Her thesis investigates transnational Sri Lankan Muslim domestic workers' experiences of wellness through the Tamil vernacular notion of suham, and the ways in which their health was affected by changing kin and communal relations and new materialities of livelihood, recruitment and sponsorship regimes. It explores how migrant women’s tactics and meaning-making of life trajectories necessarily informs processes of health and labour justice, along with the political and moral economies that link Sri Lanka and the Arab Gulf. At Sussex, Sajida has been supervised by Professor Maya Unnithan-Kumar and Dr. Michael Collyer.

Sajida is also motivated by her training in participatory expressive arts methodology, contemporary dance and choreography. She has facilitated group processes with migrant workers, health care professionals and dance companies using movement and somatic-based arts to promote understanding and communication on health and wellbeing, and to also disseminate her research findings on migrants' health and wellbeing. 


PhD (Social Anthropology) 

Associate Tutor (Anthropology)

Graduate Associate, Centre for Cultures of Reproduction, Technologies and Health (CORTH)

Graduate Associate, Sussex Centre for Migration Research

Community and Business

Academic Memberships and Affiliations

European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), Member, 2013-present.

Sussex Mobilities and Health Group, Organising Member, 2011-2013.

NGO Leadership Positions (selected)       

Executive Committee Member, the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), 2000-2005.

Member and ‘Migration Lead’ for the Asia NGO Steering Committee of the UN World Conference Against Racism, 2000-2001.

International Rapporteur on Migrant Workers, IDPs, Refugees and Asylum Seekers for the UN World Conference Against Racism, Durban, South Africa, September, 2001.

Founding and Executive Committee Member, the Hong Kong Coalition for Racial Equality (CoRE), 2000-2005.

Advisor and trainer for the Coalition for Migrants’ Rights (CMR), Hong Kong, 2000-2005.

Dance and Participatory Expressive Arts

Sajida is also an amateur contemporary dancer and choreographer, and she has been trained in participatory and therapeutic arts methodology with renowned experts. Most notably, she has worked with nATANDA Dance Company (Sri Lanka) and low-income, differently-abled youth to co-create Signspeak. With Beeja Dance (London), she co-created Sri, a piece on women’s wellbeing and power that was performed at a Feminist Review celebration in 2011. She is also a member of Angol 2, a collective of contemporary African dance artists (London.) These collaborations provide her with important spaces to creatively co-communicate her research on health and the body to lay audiences.


MSc in Social Policy, Planning and Participation in Developing Countries, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK (1998)  

BA History and Psychology, Georgetown University, USA  (1997)

Certificate in Arab Studies, Georgetown University, USA  (1997)                        





Book Chapter 

Ally, S. (2015) ‘ “Good Women Stay at Home. Bad Women Go Everywhere”: Agency, Sexuality and Self in Sri Lankan Migrant Narratives’, in Sunil K. Khanna and Maya Unnithan-Kumar (eds.), The Cultural Politics of Reproduction: Migration, Health and Family Making. London: Bergahn Books, pp. 50-76.

Policy Advocacy Reports Arising from PhD Research

Unnithan-Kumar, M. and Ally, S. (2015). ‘Migrant Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Family Planning’, Submission to the UK All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) on Population Dynamics and Reproductive Health. (Recommendations were part of the APPG report launched at the House of Lords entitled, Population Dynamics and the Sustainable Development Goals, in July 2015.See:

NGO Research and Media Publications (selected)

References without my name are under the authorship of the NGOs that they were commissioned by, which have allowed me to cite the reports as I wrote and conducted field research for them.

Ally, S. (2010). ‘Raving About Ravens—nATANDA Performs Socially Meaningful Modern Dance in Kandy.’ The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), 11/7/10.

Ally, S. (2007). ‘Global Civil Society and the UN High Level Dialogue on Migration in New York’ (unpublished report). Geneva: MRI (Migrants’ Rights International).

Ally, S. (2006). ‘Migrants’ Human Rights: A Training Manual for Advocates in Asia’ (unpublished manual). Manilla: MFA (Migrant Forum in Asia).

(2003). ‘International Standards and the UN Migrant Workers Convention: Opportunities and Obstacles in Advancing Migrants’ Rights in Asia’. Asian Migrant Yearbook 2002-2003: Migration Facts, Analysis and Issues in 2001-2002. Hong Kong: AMC (Asian Migrant Centre)/MFA. 

Ally, S. (2003). ‘Foreign Domestic Workers’ Organise Against Racial Discrimination in Hong Kong,’ Asian Labour Bulletin (Spring Issue), Hong Kong: Asian Monitor Resource Centre.

(2002) ‘Hong Kong Country Report’, Asian Migrant Yearbook 2001-2002: Migration Facts, Analysis and Issues in 2000-2001. Hong Kong: AMC/MFA.

(2002) ‘Macau Country Report’, Asian Migrant Yearbook 2001-2002: Migration Facts, Analysis and Issues in 2000-2001. Hong Kong: AMC/MFA.

(2002). ‘Lao P.D.R. Country Report’, Migration Needs, Issues and Responses in the Greater Mekong Subregion: A Resource Book. Hong Kong: AMC & Mekong Migration Network (MMN).

(2001). ‘Hong Kong Country Report’, Clearing a Hurried Path: A Study on Education Programs for Migrant Workers in Six Asian Countries. Hong Kong: AMC, Asia South Pacific Bureau for Adult Education (ASPBAE), and MFA.

(2001). ‘Burma Country Report’, Asian Migrant Yearbook 2000: Migration Facts, Analysis and Issues in 1999, Hong Kong: AMC/MFA.

(2001). ‘India Country Report’, Asian Migrant Yearbook 2000: Migration Facts, Analysis and Issues in 1999, Hong Kong: AMC/MFA.

Ally, S. (2001). ‘Race and Class Discrimination in Hong Kong: Migrant Women’s Experiences’, Hong Kong Christian Institute (HKCI) Quarterly Newsletter. Hong Kong: HKCI.

Conference Presentations and Organisation

* ‘ “Coming out” of Employers’ Homes to Preserve Wellness (Suham): Sri Lankan Migrant Women’s Moral & Biological Claims Amid Health Inequalities in Kuwait’. At ‘Transforming Asian Anthropology: Dialogues and Imaginations’, the 8th Annual Postgraduate Student Forum on Asian Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 22/1/16.

* “Becoming a Widow in Jaffna (Sri Lanka), Finding a Spouse in Saudi Arabia: Transnational Negotiations of Spousal Relations, Wellness (Suham) and Health Inequalities. At ‘Intimacies Across Asia’, a conference organised by the Sussex Asia Centre, School of Global Studies, 12/11/15.

Organised, facilitated and served as a discussant: ‘Making an Impact with Research on Sexual and Reproductive Health’, a workshop of the Centre for Cultures of Reproduction, Technologies and Health (CORTH), University of Sussex, 9/11/15. (See:

* ‘Emotion, Self and Sexuality Within Sri Lankan Migrant Narratives’ as part of a panel on ‘The Biopolitics of Migrants’ Health’. At ‘Encounters and Engagements: Creating New Agendas in Medical Anthropology’, a conference organised by the American Anthropological Association’s Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA), the European Association of Social Anthropologists’ (EASA) Medical Anthropology Network, and the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), Tarragona, Spain, 13/6/13.

* ‘Health and Migrants’ Social Protection in Sri Lanka: Disjunctions between Policy and Migrants’ Experiences of Inequalities.’ At ‘Developing Research on Mobilities and Health’, a workshop of the Sussex Mobilities and Health Group, 21/5/13.

* ‘Understanding Migration and Social Inequalities Through Health: Sri Lanka Tamil and Muslim Women Returning from the Arab Gulf’. At ‘Migration Research in Progress: A Graduate Students’ Workshop’, Sussex Centre for Migration Research (SCMR), University of Sussex, 17/6/12.

* ‘Emotion, Agency and Sexuality in Sri Lankan Migrant Narratives’. At ‘Migration, Mobilities and Global Health: Developing Partnerships for New Research’, a workshop of the Sussex Mobilities and Health Group. Organised this workshop together with other members of the workshop’s organising committee, 25/5/12.

* Facilitated panel: ‘Migrants’ Health and Social Protection in West Asia’. At the ‘Sri Lankan National Forum on the Global Forum on Migration and Development’, organised by the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) and the Action Network for Migrant Workers (ACTFORM), Colombo, Sri Lanka, 25/5/12.