E.g., 04/28/2017
E.g., 04/28/2017

The Field of Migration Studies Loses a Giant: Graeme Hugo

In a personal tribute published in the Migration Information Source, MPI's online journal, MPI President Emeritus Demetrios G. Papademetriou reflects on the life and career of Graeme Hugo, a world-renowned scholar and Director of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, who died in January 2015.


The fields of demography, population studies, development, and, more generally, the social sciences have lost one of their giants; and students of migration have lost their dean. Graeme Hugo, an ARC Australian Professorial Fellow, Professor of Geography, and Director of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, died earlier this month.

The Migration Policy Institute's online journal, the Migration Information Source​, relied extensively on his mature judgment and excellent counsel since its inception, and is a better publication as a result. The Migration Policy Institute and I, personally, have benefited continuously from Graeme's gracious generosity.

Graeme typically wrote definitive pieces across many topics. He offered invaluable and always good-spirited advice, and was able to think outside the box—and in so doing seed new subfields within migration—almost effortlessly. His oral presentations invariably shaped discussions and encouraged listeners to engage and contribute to the resulting debate. And his commitment to the proposition that migration policy, informed by evidence, done thoughtfully, and administered smartly, add measurable value to all those that engage it—migrants, as well as sending and receiving communities—is one that has animated MPI from its very inception.

Graeme’s contributions, and the man's character, are legendary. So was the approachability of his work, both in how readable his written word was (by no means a natural attribute among academics) and in the kindness and ease with which he interacted at the personal level. The man had an unmatched sense of self, yet without an ounce of vanity.

Those may very well be the attributes that we, his contemporaries, will miss most! But many of us did not just lose a colleague, a teacher, a prodigious generator of ideas, and a challenger of conventional wisdom to whose writings we will turn for guidance for many years to come. For many of us, the loss is also personal.

I was fortunate to have been in Adelaide last November to work with Graeme and his team on another project near to both of our hearts: gathering the evidence that would allow us to make the strongest possible case for ASEAN to engage the issue of regional mobility in a full-throated way. Graeme had organized a series of events in Adelaide and Canberra, inviting Australia's best and brightest to participate and move the needle forward on this topic. Unfortunately, Graeme was undergoing hospital tests and was unable to join. But even when I visited him, notes and research papers by his hospital bedside, he was as energetic and indomitable as ever. He generated ideas and offered well-intentioned guidance as to the choreography of upcoming events and insisted that he would join if possible. He was released the following week, and true to his reputation as indestructible, showed up at his office the very next day, where he and I had a long conversation, hatching plans about our common project as if nothing had happened. He did not seem preoccupied by the fact that after several weeks of testing the doctors had no definitive diagnosis, although he talked about how he had to reorder his priorities so as to spend more time with his wife and girls. Even as late as the end of the first week of January, he wrote to share the broad outline of his next book.

Many lessons can be taken from the life of this remarkable man. The one that I choose is perhaps the simplest: that of a kind, lovely man who gave of himself without asking for anything in return. As my colleagues and I remember him and celebrate his life, our thoughts also go to his wife and daughters, about whom he spoke all the time.

May your soul rest in peace, dear friend.

Demetrios G. Papademetriou

Co-Founder and President Emeritus of MPI, and President of MPI Europe