BA/Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowships Awards 2021-22
Professor David Atkinson
‘Colonial science’, the production of space and its afterlives in Italian North Africa
University of Hull
After crushing the nomadic-Bedouin resistance in Cyrenaica, Libya, with genocidal reprisals (1923-1931), Italy’s Fascist regime funded the Italian Geographical Society and Geographical Military Institute to survey, map and understand the Saharan interior. Through this method -theorised as ‘Colonial Science’- Italy constructed and politised its colonial domain of Libya. Between 1932 and 1936 the regime organised seven expeditions mobilising a range of academic disciplines to study and characterise an Italian Libya. Their research programme’s included eugenic and biopolitical methodologies, plus a research ethics policy (possibly the world’s first) and a public-facing media campaign. This fellowship interrogates this late-colonial programme for the first time. Using written and visual archives it explores how self-consciously modern, scientific practice and its performativity produced colonial territory and represented a unified Libya as part of metropolitan Italy. It also illustrates how the Libyan state it produced continues to shape the structure, politics and post-coloniality of North Africa.
Dr Simukai Chigudu
When Will We Be Free? Living in the Shadow of Empire and the Struggle for Decolonisation
University of Oxford
Despite the formal end of the British Empire, colonialism casts a dark shadow over identity politics, patterns of social division, and cultural memory in the anglosphere. How can former colonies and Britain come to terms with this difficult, divisive past? Drawing on extensive research in Africa and the UK, I show how colonial history is exploited in my home country, Zimbabwe, by a nationalist government seeking to lionise itself and demonise all challengers; while in Britain, the history of Empire evokes a nostalgia for the country’s power and influence on the world stage, which distorts history, buttresses white supremacy, and generates anxieties about cultural change. My project investigates the meaning of colonialism not only as a historical or political phenomenon but as something that inescapably affects one’s heart and mind, one’s sense of identity and home -- and it argues for decolonisation as an ongoing, necessary but incomplete global process.
Professor Eddie Jones
Mixed Lives and Hybrid Texts: guides to devout living in late-medieval England
University of Exeter
At a time when many individuals are re-evaluating the balance of their lives--between home and the office, work and life, their material and spiritual needs and wants--this project examines the ‘mixed lives’ of late-medieval England. Men and women looking to expand their spiritual horizons and deepen their relationship with God, but unable or unwilling to enter a religious order, sought new forms of living in which they could realise their spiritual ambitions without leaving the world or abandoning their secular responsibilities. With no established model or pattern to follow, these individuals were left to carve out the contours of these mixed lives on their own, and their principal help in doing so came from the books they owned, read, and shared. This first investigation of medieval English mixed lives and mixed life texts will challenge existing scholarly narratives around religious and secular identities, orthodoxy and reform, and manuscript and print.
Professor Ananya Jahanara Kabir
Alegropolitics: Connecting on the Afromodern Dance Floor
King's College London
Colonialism, enslavement, dispossession, and displacement: modernity's foundational traumas also catalysed unexpected new cultural forms, including globally popular social dances that combine the European-derived partner-hold with African-derived rhythmic elements. Unequal and violent encounters generated dances based on the shared exhilaration of partnership. My research mobilises this paradox to articulate a relationship between trauma, resistance, and survival that I call 'alegropolitics', or the politics of collective joy. Drawing on multilingual, multi-sited, archival and field research, I chart alegropolitics through the transnational spread of salsa, tango, lindy hop, zouk, bachata, and kizomba. Bringing together performance, dance, and memory studies, I bridge text and body to investigate the potential of African-heritage partner dances to transform cultural appropriation into inter-cultural reparation. From their racialised imbrication within capitalist leisure industries, I retrieve the dance floor as a site of intersubjective connection, to reroute standard narratives of global modernity through the persistent trace and memory of 'Africa'.
Dr Thibaut Maus de Rolley
Jugglers: An Intellectual History (1500-1700)
University College London (UCL)
Why did the feats of street conjurors, acrobats, tightrope walkers, fire eaters, animal trainers, ventriloquists —then known collectively as ‘jugglers’— matter to early modern intellectuals? In a time of religious conflict, witch-hunts, and intense scientific upheaval, the popular and widely accessible performances of ‘jugglers’, in Europe and abroad, did not merely entertain European audiences; their wondrous tricks of deception also inspired epistemological anxiety by highlighting that the world was not as it appeared to be. As this project will show, the marginal and marginalized figure of the itinerant street performer occupied a surprisingly important place in crucial philosophical, theological, and scientific debates of the period. ‘Jugglers’ were a sustained object of curiosity and reflection for sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European intellectuals; they allowed them to think in novel ways about illusion, imposture, and the boundaries between the natural and the supernatural, the real and the virtual, the true and the false.
Professor Rainbow Murray
Transforming representation? The long-term impacts of feminisation on parliament
Queen Mary University of London
How do gender quotas transform parliamentary representation over time? Do women make a difference and gain access to positions of power, or does male dominance persist? This study explores the impact of feminisation on the French parliament over four parliamentary terms, during which time the proportion of women has increased steadily from 12.3% (2002) to 39.5% (2021). I examine multiple aspects of representation, including the profiles and career trajectories of those elected; the areas of policy focus of male and female deputies; the content and conduct of parliamentary debates; the changing perceptions of women in office; the composition of parliamentary committees; and the role of stereotyping in perpetuating gendered power hierarchies. I consider which gendered barriers reduce over time, and which hurdles remain intact despite growing proportions of women. Drawing on extensive data, this study will be unparalleled in its holistic assessment of the long-term impacts of gender quotas.
Dr Frances Nethercott
Thomas Carlyle and the Russians: Intercultural Dialogue in the Age of Empire and Revolutions
University of St Andrews
My project analyses the intellectual relationships between Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881), one of Victorian Britain’s most controversial yet eminent social commentators, and three generations of Russian thinkers. It charts the Russian discovery of Carlyle’s work during the 1850s, Russian socialist and pan-Slavist reception (1870s-1880s), and his posthumous legacy, from around 1900, as historians, economists and philosophers began thinking about the social and moral implications of modernity. In addition, the project explores Carlyle’s openly acknowledged fascination with the Russian world, ‘my Russia’, as he called it. It asks how his idea of Russia was constructed and how far it informed his polemics concerning social order and politics in Victorian Britain. Analysis of these personal and textual encounters confirms a rich interplay of ideas across borders in otherwise starkly contrasting socio-political settings. It also evidences the relevance of these ideas to cultural discourse in Russia today.
'Occupations and Interruptions': Caring Responsibilities and Creativity in the Work of Christina Rossetti
Oxford Brookes University
Support from this Fellowship would enable the completion of Volume I of the Longman Annotated English Poets edition of Christina Rossetti’s Complete Poems. My editorial work on this volume so far has revealed fresh connections between writing and caring in the poet’s work, which I would like to explore in 2 further interconnected outputs:
- A journal article about the relationship of Rossetti's writing to her experience as a home-carer, and on the multidisciplinary, curatorial process of editing Christina Rossetti's poems
- A radio documentary about poetry and caring, based on an ongoing programme of poetry workshops for carers, run in partnership with Carers Oxfordshire
In recovering the importance of caring responsibilities to the poet’s creative practice, the Longman edition and the journal article are crucial interventions in Rossetti studies, while my public-facing activities aim to bring a timely visibility to caring poetics more broadly.
BA/Thank-Offering to Britain Senior Research Fellowship
Professor Catherine Hezser
Rabbinic Scholarship in the Context of Late Antique Scholasticism
School of Oriental and African Studies
Palestinian rabbinic scholarship, that is, the intellectual practices that generated rabbinic knowledge and resulted in the compilation of the Talmud Yerushalmi, can be understood properly only when examined in the context of late antique scholasticism and the competing knowledge cultures of the Roman-Byzantine Empire. Between the third and sixth centuries C.E., Graeco-Roman philosophers and jurists, Jewish rabbis, and Christian church fathers and monks taught their disciples, established school traditions, and eternalized the teachings of past authorities in written form. This study aims at integrating rabbinic scholarship into the context of late antique scholasticism, antiquarianism, and encyclopaedism, phenomena that have mostly been studied for western knowledge cultures based on “classical” Greek education (paideia), by combining a social-historical approach with a form-critical and redaction-historical investigation. In the context of the Roman-Byzantine Empire, the political significance of an "alternative" rabbinic knowledge culture that competed with Graeco-Roman and Christian knowledge will be explored.