Keenan Allen had many plans. Ending up in the IMER classroom was not one of them. Now, he wants to use his knowledge to be a social entrepreneur, an artist, a researcher, and much more.
A few years ago, Keenan was studying medicine in Tokyo. Today, he is working with refugee children in Malmö.
“When I started studying, I had my heart set on becoming a physician and spent years studying biology and medicine. I found myself overwhelmed and exhausted. I thought I could be more effective working with society rather than the human body.”
Studying at Malmö University
Originally from Chicago, Keenan moved to New Orleans just before hurricane Katrina hit and lead to widespread dislocation. By the time he moved to Sweden, he had personally seen the effects migration and movement firsthand.
“When I came here I felt that I was ready to finish a degree. I found out about this programme and thought it would serve me very well. It has given me basis for understanding how and why people move. We study migration theories, citizenship and how these issues relate to identity.
“The programme also focuses on ethnic relations, which wasn’t the most appealing part of the programme for me at the start. However, as I'm working in the field, I am realising that the more globalised we become through technology, the more we need to connect in a physical way, face-to-face.”
Working with unaccompanied refugee children
Since finishing his studies at Malmö University, Keenan has been working at a residential care home for unaccompanied refugee children in Malmö.
“In the programme we get to study refugee and asylum law and processes, all of the things I deal with at work. When assisting these people, I understand how the law works and how the EU has designed its framework. The programme is very practical in that sense.”
Even before moving to Sweden, Keenan was working on a personal project exploring borders and closed spaces.
“I remember that when I got my passport, that was the first time I started thinking about national identity, and how passports are directly connected to certain kinds of access. I started a project in Chicago called Passport Carriers.
“The project is about mobility and how to include people who are excluded from society. Now, when working with young people, I want to continue my project to inspire them. My ambition is to turn this into a research project in the future.
“I see myself as a cultural activist or cultural entrepreneur involved in social business. It is hard to explain because I want to bounce around and not be in a fixed position. I want to be able to utilise my knowledge in collaboration with others. I really believe in people and people’s capacity to do great things.”