After travelling through West Africa, I decided to study African history. For my doctoral dissertation I conducted fieldwork in the southern region of Senegal, a part of the country claimed by an armed separatist movement. Researching masquerading, I found that the object of my research was defined as secret by my interlocutors. I became more interested in anthropological understandings of the practice of secrecy and how this practice enables people to produce locality in an increasingly globalising world. This is when my academic orientation shifted towards anthropology. My doctoral dissertation demonstrates how people engage modernity on their own terms through secretive performances. Since masquerading is a form of performance, I was happy to take up the opportunity to teach African art and performance at the School of Art History and World Art Studies. Here I developed new interests in art, performance and memory. I became interested in heritage, as one of the masquerades I had researched in Senegal was declared UNESCO World Heritage. At present, I am developing research and teaching in the archive and postcolonial futures.
M.A. in History, Erasmus University Rotterdam (1992)
Ph.D in Social Science, University of Amsterdam (2001)
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Animating the Archive: the trial and testimony of a Suﬁ saintFull Text UEA Repository
Utopian archives, decolonial affordances: Introduction to special issueFull Text UEA Repository
Cultural Festivals in Senegal: Archives of Tradition, Mediations of ModernityUEA Repository
At work in the archive: introduction to special issueFull Text UEA Repository
Foreword: Art from the ArchiveFull Text UEA Repository
Ruines d'Utopies: L’École William Ponty et L’Université du Futur africainFull Text UEA Repository
Introduction: Archiving the Postcolonial CityFull Text UEA Repository
Archiving after Empire: Saint-Louis and its Sufi Counter-MemoryFull Text UEA Repository
Le secret exposé: Révélation et reconnaissance d’un patrimoine immatériel au SénégalUEA Repository
La tragédie du roi Abdoulaye? Néomodernisme et Renaissance africaine dans le Sénégal contemporainUEA Repository
Remembering the Nation: The Mourid Maggal in Saint Louis, SenegalUEA Repository
First Word: Hybrid HeritageUEA Repository
Shining Lights: Self-fashioning in the Lantern Festival of Saint Louis, SenegalUEA Repository
African Arts: special issue on Art and HeritageUEA Repository
Recycling Recognition: The Monument as Objet Trouvé of the PostcolonyUEA Repository
Postconflict HeritageUEA Repository
Journal of Material Culture: special issue on Postconflict HeritageUEA Repository
Masquerades of Modernity: Power and Secrecy in Casamance, SenegalUEA Repository
Reconsidering Heritage and MemoryUEA Repository
Masquerades of Modernity: Power and Secrecy in Casamance, Senegal (International African Library)UEA Repository
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Key Research Interests
- Heritage, art and postcolonial memory
- Masquerading, performance and intangible heritage
- Museums, materiality, time and temporality
- Art, aesthetics and performance
- Archive and Utopia
Current Research Projects
- For several years I have researched how art, performance and memory intersect in museums, memorials and heritage. In my research in Senegal, I have addressed performance and intangible heritage in a context of post-colonial nation-building in which the legacies of slavery and colonialism are still prevalent and inform postcolonial memory.
- Researching heritage in Senegal, I have found it to be framed by pan-African ideologies. My most recent research papers address the complex legacy of pan-Africanism in the current context of Afro-optimism. How is Pan-Africanism recycled and how is it given new relevance in the postcolony. In 2011 I was awarded a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship to complete a monograph on this subject.
- As a result of my interests in contemporary art and memory, I am increasingly drawn to the ways in which artists work in the archive. As a metaphor for systems for the storage of documents and traces of the past, I have started to explore contemporary postcolonial artists work within the archive. Such archival work is often presented as a critique of the colonial archive and meant to open postcolonial futures. I am Principal Investigator of an AHRC Research Network on Utopian Archives: Excavating Pasts for Postcolonial Futures.
- The Pan-African Heritage of Senegal. British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, award reference: MD120035.
- Utopian Archives: Excavating Pasts for Postcolonial Futures. Principal Investigator, AHRC Research Network Grant, award reference: AH/J006122/1.
- The Aesthetics of Modernity and Postcolonial Citizenship in Senegal. The Royal Academy, award reference: SG102029.
- The Staged Nation: Heritage and Memory in Postcolonial Senegal. Arts and Humanities Research Council, award reference: AH/F013116/1.
- The Public Past: Memory and Heritage in Postcolonial Senegal. Economic and Social Research Council, award reference: RES-000-22-0735.
- History, Heritage and Memory: Politics of the Past in Senegal. The British Academy, award reference: SG-36720.
- African art
- Material culture
- Public art
- Art, aesthetics and performance
I am interested in supervising research students in all areas of traditional and contemporary African art; public art and memory; heritage and material culture; cities and their imagination.
Current Research Students
Katie Boone – Migrant heritage in Cyprus
Rania Jaber – Lebanese women artists in diaspora
Examples of modules taught
African Art and Performance
Contemporary African Arts
Public Art, Performance and Memory
Uses of Cultural Heritage