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AHRC Major Grant success for Jacqueline Fear-Segal

Beyond the Spectacle: Native North American Presences in Britain

Professor Jacqueline Fear-Segal (American Studies) and Dr David Stirrup (University of Kent) have secured a major AHRC research grant to study Native Americans visitors to Britain. This £980,510.76 project will run for three years.

Chief Two Dogs presents peace pipe to Queen Elizabeth II in Southwark Cathedral, November 23, 2006Since Pocahontas captured the Court of King James I, in 1616, through late nineteenth century mass audiences for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and the recent presentation of a peace pipe and petition to Queen Elizabeth II by Mohegan Chief Two Dogs in Southwark Cathedral, British  encounters with the Indigenous peoples of North America have been varied, complex, and on-going. Quite often seen as combining elements of exotica, spectacle, commercialism, and nostalgia, it is only recently that a scholarship has begun to develop that counter-balances the colonial perspective and turns attention instead to the reciprocal nature of these encounters, and their bequests to descendant communities in both Britain and North America. Positioning itself at the intersection of current research on Imperialism and Indigenous Studies, this project seeks to explore, untangle, assess, and realign British understanding of Indigenous peoples in the twenty-first century, by examining complex processes of exchange and interchange through a cultural and historical lens. Within the geographical and conceptual context of what, with a nod to Paul Gilroy, is known as 'the Red Atlantic', attention will be paid to encounters and interactions within this wide cultural barter zone that embraced not just London, but also the many towns and cities of Britain, including Norwich. Pivotal to our investigations will be the hundreds of Native Americans who accompanied Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show on its tours of the UK, many of whom had been educated in government boarding schools. The underlying goal of the research will be to deepen understanding of historical, cultural and political trans-Atlantic exchanges, and from this to contribute to discussions of Indigenous agency, on-going contests relating to sovereignty and resources, and to inform current discourses centering on national identity, immigration, diversity, and belonging. As well as scholarly publications and conferences, this project will engage a wider public through four Native American creative residencies - painter (at the SCVA); write; composer; photographer - and will leave a permanent legacy in a database and website.