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Austin Dean, Mataio
Mataio Austin Dean is an artist and activist from Portsmouth, England. Born in 1996 to a Guyanese mother and an English father, he graduated from The Slade School of Fine Art, UCL in 2020. His current research is concerned with Britain’s colonial and post-colonial exploitation of Guyana. His work combines images of events from Guyana’s largely overlooked anti-colonial, anti-slavery revolutionary history with images of the Southern English landscape.
Austin Dean also uses Guyanese and English folksong to embody and re-enact histories of rebellion, establishing, with recourse to his own family history, an intergenerational, cross-geographical, intertemporal class solidarity. His current research follows three Guyanese sugar-plantations and the roles they have played in Southern-English infrastructure, real estate, and land investments since slave-compensation following the 1833 British Slavery Abolition Act.
The core aim of my research is to investigate how the historical teaching of colonialism in the UK, through school textbooks, have allowed for a deep and broad ‘sanctioned ignorance’ of the Empire which fails to include ethnic minority British citizens into the narrative and as such leads to misunderstandings and misrecognitions in present day society. The socio-political impact of this sanctioned ignorance can be seen in the Windrush Scandal, in which British born subjects were deported to the Caribbean, but we can also glimpse understandings of this misreading of history and challenges to the status quo in calls to decolonise the curriculum and the recent Black Lives Matter protests in the UK.
I am an historian of British imperialism in eastern Africa with special interests in the histories of collecting, museums, and material and visual culture. I completed my PhD at UCL and the British Museum in 2019. My thesis was entitled Material Cultures of Imperialism in Eastern Africa, c.1870–1920: A Study of Ethnographic Collecting and Display and involved research in archives and museums across Britain, Uganda, Kenya, and Zanzibar.
Since completing my PhD I have held research positions at the Paul Mellon Centre, the National Trust, the V&A, and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution. I have also developed two new lines of research which focus on the global histories of eastern African ivory, and the history of Catholicism in Uganda.
El Mal, Jessica
ElMal Art uses a multidisciplinary approach to address global structures of power through critical research, participatory projects and speculative future imaginaries. Often centered around collaboration, co-curation and collective knowledge systems, projects usually include research, workshops and artwork project intended to have a lasting effect past the point of production.
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My research looks at the human remains of colonised and indigenous peoples that are housed in universities and museums across Britain. After completing a BA Archaeology, I decided to specialise in human remains. As an MSc student studying human osteology, I was surprised to learn that many of the anatomical teaching skeletons at my university’s medical teaching unit were originally from colonial India. This spurred my interest in the roots of colonialism in archaeology, anthropology and medical science. I wrote my MSc dissertation about the display and digitisation of such materials; their modes of acquisition and the violence committed by colonial powers which often accompanied them, their ethical and curatorial place in institutions today and their future; whether this be their reburial or repatriation to the communities which they originated from.
Read Katie’s blog post about her research here.
I am concerned with issues of gender, race, religion and materiality in the Pacific. My PhD thesis is tentatively titled ‘A feminist frontier? Analysing women’s experiences on evangelical sites in Oceania, 1861-1907’. There are two significant elements to my thesis. In one part I examine the Australian Joint Copying Project as a unique archive from which historians work. There are also chapters that use an intersectional feminist approach to deconstruct the discursive processes at play on-site at the London Missionary Society frontier. I focus on the relationships formed and performed between European men and women with various Indigenous intermediaries from Rarotonga and New Guinea. I contend it was the social and cultural disruption caused by the arrival of the London Missionary Society members that positioned these women to obtain these politically powerful roles and be named accordingly- if only for a brief moment in history.
Le Grand, Pippa
Pippa recently graduated with an MA in Historical Research from the University of Sheffield, where she examined the relationships between British imperial and global history. She works in digital marketing and as producer for her company Only Lucky Dogs Theatre, in collaboration with the team at Portland Works, Sheffield. Pippa can be found on Twitter @pippalegrand.
Read Pippa’s blog post ‘Empire in the Glass Case’ – about her research into the obscured colonial histories behind many objects at Weston Park Museum, Sheffield – here.
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Sibongile’s research studies the socio-economic history of gender-based violence in colonial Zimbabwe c. 1930-1980. Inspired by Postcolonial systemic problems related to Gender based violence, the research traces its historical roots to colonial society. The research uses archival materials in the form of court records supported by newspaper and women’s magazines. It acknowledges the limitations of the archives in terms of silences regarding some experiences, yet offering opportunities to hear subaltern voices. The research targets both the white Rhodesians and Africans. The main argument is that patriarchal colonial society, sometimes supported by the law alongside African traditional patriarchy, connived to cover up violence in domestic spaces, economic abuse, sexual violence, including that perpetrated against male and female children.
Read our interview with Sibongile here.
Brooks Marmon’s PhD thesis explored the wider impact of African decolonisation and the ‘wind of change’ on the politics of Southern Rhodesia (colonial Zimbabwe) in the 1950s and early 1960s. Beyond his work on transnational liberation struggles, he is broadly interested in Cold War era diplomacy across sub-Saharan Africa and the retreat of British colonial rule throughout the continent.
Dr Okumu’s PhD studied the colonial roots of inter-communal violence among pastoralist communities in Northern Kenya. He is currently researching experiences of human trafficking among young people in Kenya, in collaboration with the Anti-Slavery Knowledge Network at the University of Liverpool.
Read our interview with Willis here.
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For my oral history research I interviewed Partition survivors. I focused on how Partition was reduced to a figures game in British writings whereas the actual repercussions were much more.
My other interest concerns how oral history can enrich the practice of archaeology. Oral history has been used as an important means in archaeology for various purposes. Modern Archaeology was introduced in India by Britishers, however, due to the cultural difference, I feel many objects or data were misinterpreted. Although they knew archaeology, they lacked the local sentiments and context.
I am currently a restorer and archivist with the Devi Art Foundation.
Read our interview with Shreya here.
@symatypes / @mesyma (Instagram)
Historical narratives of the 1947 Partition – the cataclysmic division of British India into independent India and Pakistan – are complex and contentious. In the last decade or so, there has been a growth in oral history work and the gathering of testimony related to Partition. Given the ongoing manipulation, fragmentation and abuse of historical narrative, however, Partition as a category – rather than mere event – is deeply unstable. My research refocuses on Partition through the unstable and contingent practice of listening, not just to testimony gathered, but also to the postcolonial contexts in which the “artefactualisation” of voices occurs.
Constituencies of Control in Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion: Instead of concentrating of acts of interpersonal violence as is common in the study of Mau Mau, my research looks into the ways in which a colonial bureaucracy exerts control by focusing both on local connections between administrators and loyalist, as well as the regulations and communal punishments used to exert control of those deemed disloyal. In doing so my research begins to try and view coercion as more than just violence but as uneven and often chaotic demonstrations of control.