Post by Daniel Alati, DPhil Alumni

Daniel charts his journey from Canada to Oxford and shares his experiences in Hong Kong, where he has found a new academic home as a postdoctoral researcher at City University Hong Kong.

Moving to Oxford
When I found out that I had been admitted to the Oxford DPhil, I was still back home in Canada, nearing the end of my LLM degree at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. I was doing research into transnational organized crime and national security at the time, and my professors had recommended the Oxford Centre for Criminology. In particular, I was impressed by the Centre (and Oxford)’s outstanding global reputation, as well as the stellar array of Faculty doing timely and world-recognized research. I was also interested in the work of Professor Lucia Zedner, who would later become my supervisor. I was excited for the challenge of joining one of the most rigorous academic communities in the world. I successfully defended my LLM thesis in August and then had less than two weeks to say a myriad of goodbyes and pack my life into three bags (this would be the first, but certainly not the last time I have done this in my life).

My Time at Oxford
A week before our term was scheduled to start, the Centre for Criminology held a whole slate of “induction events”. At a meet and greet sandwich lunch, I had my first conversation with Professor Julian Roberts and I met Daniel Pascoe and Marie Manikis. In the years that followed, Daniel, Marie, myself and several other amazing members of the Centre’s graduate community would grow the kind of common bond that can only really be forged through the pursuit of a doctorate. We would eat together, debate together, complain together, travel together, succeed together, question our existence and life choices and, of course, share the odd beverage or three together. During my time in Oxford, my knowledge of law and criminology grew expansively. I learned more about legal research methods and, in particular, I learned about the difficulties and great rewards associated with comparative research. I learned a lot about legal and criminological research outside of my field, thanks in large part to the various seminars often put on by the Centre. Finally, I learned to refine my writing and work independently in a way that I had never before dreamed possible. Nonetheless, it was that sense of community that was truly the greatest gift the Centre for Criminology could have ever given me. The road to the doctorate was immensely difficult, filled with peaks and valleys. I can honestly say that it was, the Centre community and, of course, the wonderful support that I received from Professor Lucia Zedner that helped me to succeed. 

Moving on from Oxford
Before submitting my doctorate, I had applied for a number of jobs, including a postdoctoral position at the City University of Hong Kong. My time at Oxford had taught me that there were real challenges (and very real rewards) associated with doing comparative research, and I was keen to gain experience researching and teaching in a new jurisdiction. So, I was extremely pleased when the City University of Hong Kong offered me a postdoctoral position. In the semester since I’ve been at CityU, my academic experience has grown 10-fold. I was able to teach Criminal Law last semester, and am teaching Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure this semester under the guidance of Daniel Pascoe. I’ve been able to have my first ever academic article accepted for publication, pertaining to the impact of the Edward Snowden disclosures on the security establishments of Canada and the United Kingdom. I’ve been able (and encouraged!) to adapt my research interests to an entirely different jurisdiction, and am currently working with my postdoctoral supervisor (Prof. Lin Feng) on a research project about the ongoing debate on Universal Suffrage in Hong Kong. The CityU (and Hong Kong) are certainly different than Oxford, but the experience I’ve had here of teaching and researching in an entirely different jurisdiction has been invaluable. Nonetheless, a part of the Centre for Criminology will always be with me. The relationships I made whilst at the Centre are relationships that I will hold on to for the rest of my life. Academically, the training I received and the knowledge I accumulated in Oxford has vastly helped me in my current professional endeavors and will continue to do so for a number of years. I’m sure I speak for a number of the Centre alumni when I say that my Oxford years were the most intellectually formative of my life, and have well prepared me for any number of upcoming professional challenges. I have no doubt that past, present and future members of the Centre will take the experience and knowledge they’ve gained in Oxford and translate it into cutting edge research all around the world.