Diaspora voices  
June 21, 2023
Between words and worlds: Introducing our new intern Rodrice Kingue

In June 2023, we welcomed the newest member of the EUDiF team: for the next six months Rodrice Thomas Kingue Ekollo joins us on our diaspora youth internship programme. Rodrice is a trilingual scholar with Cameroonian origins based in France. He is currently doing his M.A. in Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs at the University of Milan. At the start of his time with EUDiF, Rodrice sat down with fellow intern Jessica to discuss his interests in the internship and beyond…

Jessica: Hello Rodrice! I’m thrilled to welcome you to EUDiF. What was your motivation for joining this unique internship and how do you feel at the start of it?

Rodrice: Hello, Jessica! Happy to be part of the team. I have to say I had no idea such an organisation existed but when I did come across the EUDiF project I fell in love with it. I had a course in migration, discrimination and non-integration and my thesis immediately steered to that theme. Coming from a migration background, I am very passionate about projects and ideas that can root my existence in this world. I was lucky enough to get an opportunity so I took a shot at it and I’m glad I scored because the more I learn about this initiative, the more I like it. I feel like I came at a very crucial time as well with the first phase of the project coming to an end: I get to participate in a particularly busy period and immediately see the results of my work.

That is exciting! From your first two weeks with the project, what interests you most so far and what do you hope to learn by the end of the internship?

It’s hard to choose because there are so many interesting activities that resonate with me: giving tools to diaspora organisations for them to thrive, networking with diaspora experts, heightening nations’ awareness of their greatest capital: their people. What interests me most is how migration is not being depicted as a disaster or something to solve, as we often see in the media, but as something that should be considered a resource.

For me, this project is extremely surprising in what it’s attempting to do and how it is doing it. This perfect mix of dialogue, research and capacity development, directly applying theory to practice, and building each activity on the data gathered from the experiences so far… It’s just brilliant human engineering and I can’t wait to see where this machine is going. That’s what I’m most excited about: what’s next.

The concept of “Diaspora” is an important notion in our line of work. Although, there is no singular definition of the term, for EUDiF, diaspora refers to emigrants and their descendants who seek to maintain or create links with their heritage countries and are willing to contribute to development. As a person with multiple cultural ties and diverse global connections yourself, how do you maintain links with your country of origin?

I’m lucky enough to have a lot of family in a lot of places. Italy and Norway are close to France, so I’m there at least once a year. I haven’t been to Cameroon in a while but I sometimes participate in family and community events, and keep up with what’s going on. Events are usually culture related, with lots of food and music. 

I grew up with the idea that both my grandfathers were eminent Cameroonian figures and it just feels natural to want to know more about my own cultural background and root myself in it. I try to read about it as much as possible, and exchange with family members. As the son of the eldest, I’m also involved in some family projects.

How does your diasporic identity influence your interests and your view on global issues/development issues?

My diasporic identity is probably at the base of everything I see and do. I’ve studied the importance of social and geographical boundaries in the construction of a state but, like many people with a migration background, I can’t help but see beyond borders. Globalisation has opened many doors just outside of those borders, including answers to global/development issues. Obviously, I move around a lot and feel like when you can’t find an answer somewhere it’s natural to look somewhere else. Not to say that nationality is outdated, but perhaps it’s not the only prism from which we should see human mobility. 

Where can we find you when you are not working, studying or researching your thesis?
I like working out, travelling and hanging out with my friends. We debate a lot (and I mean a LOT), whether it’s about old movies, an anime scene or dumb Twitter gossip. I’m writing a book with a friend. It’s a dystopian sci-fi novel that focuses on power, corruption, and communities. The first main character sees power as a moral responsibility of the elites, the second as a tool to get what he wants, and the last one as a parasite that corrupts anything it touches. As they interact with each other and their perspectives clash, they will reveal secrets about themselves and the world they live in. I sometimes write at the park or in a café, but I’m quite the homebody if I’m being honest. I don’t come out unless I have a specific thing to do: a person to see, a restaurant to eat at, a party to crash or a museum to go to.
Wow that sounds like a very interesting read! Is there a backstory to the concept of including themes of power dynamics and corruption within communities?
I just feel like they are closely linked. I’ve been reading about political regimes since high school and power is often depicted as something that comes down from higher up, like rain from a cloud, but it is essentially relational. From person to person, from person to group, from group to group, and from group to person. We, as communities, mould altars and stages where decisions will be made in our name yet those structures will then shape the future of what we can and cannot do, and how – codes and morals, good and evil. Power is not just arbitrary laws and rules: we shape it and it shapes us. Our selfish interests come into play and become common interests when enough individuals are assembled. Within that natural and democratic process, corruption seeps in. It’s just such an interesting back and forth dynamic and I felt like I had to explore multiple aspects of power, social structures, morality and corruption to try to understand the balance that can come out of it.

That sounds amazing, I am very curious to see it available at bookstores, good luck!

Thank you!

Lastly, I would like to ask about the connection of this internship with your master’s research. You are preparing to write your thesis on the generation gap of emigrants. What are you intending to examine and how does the internship programme help?

What I am mostly trying to examine is the position of individuals from a migration background in society. I’ve found that second- and third-generation migrants receive both backlash for being considered non-citizens and failed citizens, effectively accumulating the baggage of tolerated citizenship in the countries they live in, when they actually don’t belong to any of the two categories. “You need to be twice as good to get half of what they have.” The advice Rowan Pope gives his daughter Olivia in the second season of Scandal, echoes that of every migrant parent I know. It is their solution to attain tolerated citizenship. Yet, sometimes in striving for this, we can lose the connection with the country of heritage and experience identity crises.

I don’t have the full story yet, but in my thesis I’m framing these generations as social nomads that could gain some advantage from the current wave of globalisation, thanks to their multiple cultural connections and cultural sensitivity. In a world that is increasingly connected, the disembedding of culture and connection from physical location can both help and hinder identity formation, but I believe it has greater potential than risk and I want to research to what extent others in the diaspora feel the same.

I hope this experience will be very enriching for you both personally and professionally. It is great to expand our pool of alumni members. Thank you for being open and sharing your thoughts with me. Best of luck with your future endeavours!

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