Skip to main content
Skip to McMaster Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to main content
McMaster logo
COVID-19 information and updates

Find the most recent updates here, as well as FAQs and information for students, faculty and staff.

Carlo Handy Charles receives fellowship at the French Collaborative Institute on Migrations

Carlo Handy Charles, a PhD candidate in the department of Sociology, has been selected as one of 13 researchers to join the department of INTEGER at the French Collaborative Institute on Migrations (CI Migrations).

Jun 25, 2020

Charles, an international student originally from Haiti, began his doctoral studies in September 2018. He is pursuing a joint PhD in Sociology at McMaster University under the supervision of Vic Satzewich and in Geography at the CNRS Laboratoire Caribéen de Sciences SocialesUniversité des Antilles, supervised by Cédric Audebert. As an early-career migration researcher, Charles’ curriculum vitae is already punctuated with appointments and awards from Canada, Haiti, Venezuela, and France. Now adding a three-year fellowship with CI Migrations to his growing list of achievements, the social science researcher will continue his doctoral research in Canada while participating in ongoing migration projects in France. 

About the fellowship

CI Migrations, located in Paris, is led by eight European partner institutions and four associated laboratories. Operating on a 13.6 million euros budget, it exists to gather and animate the community of French and foreign researchers affiliated with French Research Centers working on migration. CI Migrations is internationally recognized for its contributions to the social sciences; it has been the birthplace of many great, scholarly works and has been awarded for its research projects.

As a CI Migrations fellow, Charles will spend three years integrating his doctoral research with various CI Migrations projects. The fellowship, which commenced in May 2020, enables Charles to collaborate with the community of fellows, reflecting on processes of racialization, differentiation and categorization of migrants, socio-spatial and geographic mobilities within diasporic communities, as well as processes of mobilization and politization of immigrant and refugee integration. 

“During these three years, I hope to specifically intersect the CI Migrations’ great socio-political and geographic research program with sexuality, which is a key aspect of my research and is often overlooked in current debates on migrant political integration,” adds Charles.

Charles’ doctoral research is a comparative study of the interplay between migration, sexuality, social liberalism, and Haitians’ socio-spatial and political integration in Canada, the United States, and France.

“I am interested in examining how Haitian immigrants and refugees tackle matters related to sexuality and social liberalism with a specific analytical focus on individual freedom for civil (religious, sexual) and political rights in Montréal, Miami, and Cayenne. My research also examines how Haitians’ attitudes and practices of sexuality fit into, contribute to and/or challenge social liberalism as a sociopolitical project in Canada, the U.S., and France.”

The road to McMaster

Charles’ interest in migration issues stems from lived experience. Born and raised in Haiti, one of the major source countries of international migrants from the Caribbean, migration has been an influential part of his life for as long as he can remember. His interest in migration research, however, took root during an elective course during his undergraduate studies at the Université Lumière Lyon II in France.

“I took a fascinating elective course on international migration and integration with Dr. Rozenn Bahaud…I was very admirative of Dr. Bahaud’s interdisciplinary focus and felt personally connected to migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees’ experience of integration in many countries as described in the materials for the class. In parallel, I was also very involved in several student and civil society organizations whose work focused on the integration of immigrants and refugees in France. This made Dr. Bahaud’s class discussions even more relevant to me.  After completing the course, I was confident that I wanted to pursue an academic career in migration studies.”

After graduating with a dual-honours bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Psychology from Université Lumière Lyon II in 2016, Charles went on to earn a Master’s degree in Sociology from York University in Toronto.

When it came to his doctoral studies, Charles chose McMaster in September 2018. His decision was informed by the opportunity to work with his now co-supervisor Vic Satzewich, whose books Charles had often studied and referenced in his earlier research, such as “Race and Ethnicity,” “Racism in Canada,” “Transnational Identities and Practices in Canada” and “Points of Entry.”

“Not only is [Dr. Satzewich] a well-established, award-wining migration scholar in Canada, but he also has a very accessible way of tackling complex migration issues and making them understandable to the general public.”

Charles’ own commitment to translating research for public consumption has been most recently demonstrated in the articles he’s authored for The Conversation and Medium, as well as in his advocacy work with international students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the opportunity to work with Dr. Satzewich, McMaster’s support of Charles’ jointly supervised PhD (Cotuelle de these in French) with the CNRS-Laboratoire Caribéen de Sciences Sociales at the Université des Antilles, was a contributing factor. 

“As a Cotutelle PhD student, I completed half of my program requirements (coursework and comprehensive exams) in Sociology at McMaster and the other half in Geography at the Université des Antilles.” Charles adds, “While doing so, I was also an Ontario Visiting Graduate Student in Sociology at the University of Toronto." 

Managing commitments

When asked how he manages the demands of a joint doctoral program, on top of his responsibilities as a Vanier Scholar, a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar and member of the COVID-19 Impact Committee, an advisor on the City of Toronto Francophone Affairs Advisory Committee, a conference co-organizer for the Canadian Sociological Association Race and Ethnicity Research Cluster, a TA and RA, a writer, the Sociology Graduate Caucus Chair at McMaster, and now, a fellow at CI Migrations, Charles credits his Haitian upbringing and support system.

“I find balance in my personal and professional projects by remembering who I am and where I come from,” says Charles. 

“I grew up in a Haitian family where my parents inculcated my siblings and I a set of values, such as hard work, determination, excellence, gratefulness, discipline and self-care. My mother is a very disciplined person and my father is a visionary man. My parents’ combined qualities keep me grounded and make me prioritize daily tasks while focusing on my long-term goals.”

“Also, it has been important to surround myself with a great support system of friends around the world while also keeping a daily routine of physical activity. I am not a big fan of gyms, so I walk at least an hour and a half and listen to great Jazz music every day. This has helped me remain focused on my goals and projects.” 

Advice for migration researchers

Charles’ commitments may seem overwhelming, but he has some practical advice for students interested in starting graduate-level migration studies.

  1. Take some time to figure out what aspect of migration interests you the most in order to focus your energy on it.
  2. Read nuanced perspectives on migration so that you are ethical in your way of approaching migration as an academic subject and not only a political commentary informed by some specific political party propaganda.
  3. Go onto field sites to see what actually happens and how migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees navigate and negotiate their lives in their host societies. This will allow you to bring innovation, richness, and thickness of analysis to the field of study.
  4. Find scholars you can work with or under to guide your studies and research. Take time to get to know different migration scholars as potential advisors before you make a final decision about who you want to shape your learning and research.