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Objects in Space, Subjects in Time: The Material Cultures of Postcolonial History

A series of six workshops across the year which explore global, transnational and postcolonial pasts by engaging with material collections and texts or objects in museums and exhibition spaces across London.

Objects in Space, Subjects in Time: The Material Cultures of Postcolonial History

Kat Hill and Rebecca Darley (History, Classics and Archaeology - Birkbeck)
Suzanna Ivanic (Kent)
Luke Lavan (Kent)
Liz James (Sussex)

A series of six workshops across the year which explore global, transnational and postcolonial pasts by engaging with material collections and texts or objects in museums and exhibition spaces across London. The journeys of objects or the changing shape and use of spaces can offer a powerful means of unpicking, understanding and then conveying meaningfully and compellingly to a range of audiences the processes and legacies of empires. Encountering the objects and spaces proposed in these workshops emphasizes not only the intellectual perspectives of post-colonial theory upon the past, but also brings to light in the most concrete terms those shadows of empire in the present that post-colonial theory was developed to expose and challenge.

These workshops will include one international conference, four object-based sessions making use of London’s unparalleled collections, and two sessions dedicated to the processes of translating research into different arenas. You will have the chance to examine a range of material and objects in dedicated study sessions with curators and experts, and over the course of the series, you will produce a video, blogpost or other public-facing reflection, drawing on your own research and the materials in these workshops. You will receive training from the Derek Jarman Lab, Birkbeck’s media department, on how to produce an effective media project and have the opportunity to contribute to a podcast with a top broadcaster, as well as present your ideas on the sessions to a non-academic audience.

The focus in all of the workshops will, therefore, be on the complex material histories of empires, as vehicles for migration, trade, translation and the imposition of political authority, and simultaneously on developing a constant awareness of the sub-structures of knowledge creation that underpin any approach to the past. They will combine to give you fresh ways to think with objects and to challenge categories and ideologies of colonialism, not only as they were historically constructed, but also as they continue to shape the world today.

For any questions please contact Kat Hill (katherine.hill@bbk.ac.uk) or Rebecca Darley (r.darley@bbk.ac.uk)

Register using the form here


What will you get from these sessions?

  • Engage with materiality and object-based history

  • Engage with diachronic global and transnational histories

  • Think about place and space as historical concepts

  • Develop presentation and public engagement skills

  • Broaden knowledge of heritage spaces and public museums

  • Network with other researchers, senior scholars and other stakeholders

What’s included?

  • All the sessions, time and resources

  • Lunch and refreshments for each day

  • Travel to and from the workshops

  • Overnight accommodation if coming outside London for session 1 (Conference and Mithraeum)

  • Payment for 2 students to tweet and blog about the Late Antique Archaeology conference

Indicative Programme (all are full day events)

Workshop 1:
Late Antique Archaeology – Friday 30 November
Mithraeum Conference – Saturday 1 December

  • Opportunity to attend the Late Antique Archaeology (this is not compulsory)

  • Tour of the Mithraeum site

  • Discussion with a researcher who has worked with the Mithraeum of the moveable objects found within the site and the decision to house these in the Museum of London

  • Panel discussion on the role of Bloomberg in the conservation and future of the Mithraeum site


Workshop 2: January 2019: Training with the Derek Jarman Lab

  • Training session on vlogs, blogs and media


Workshop 3: 1 March: The British Library

  • Tour of the map room of the British Library

  • Discussion with a researcher working on the British Library collections and on maps of the Middle East in particular

  • Opportunity to see and spend time examining, collectively and in small groups, a sequence of maps showing the Middle East and to discuss their changing representations of this space


Workshop 4: Friday 29 March 2019: The British Museum

  • Tour of the Waddesdon Bequest, the Renaissance treasures (and some fakes) collected by Baron Rothschild

  • Discussion with a researcher working on the Renaissance collections at the British Museum about the origin and nature of this collection, in relation to the wider Renaissance holdings of the museum

  • Opportunity to see and spend time examining, collectively and in small groups, a selection of objects in the Waddesdon Bequest, chosen to reflect contested, disruptive or hidden histories of colonialism.                                                


Workshop 5: Friday 10 May 2019: The V and A

  • Tour of the photographic archive of the V&A examining material from the nineteenth century, such as Creswell photographs of Syria, Palestine, and Cairo, albums of missions and expeditions to Pacific Islands, and records of hierarchies in India

  • Discussion with a researcher working on the digitization of the photographic archive

  • Opportunity to see and spend time examining, collectively and in small groups, images from the Tripe collection. To investigate the unique nature of photographs as documentary sources constructed out of intentional and unintentional preserved elements, and the value of this in developing new narratives of past spaces.


Workshop 6: June 2019: Westminster Kingsway College

  • Presentation of blogpost/video-post (to a group of students from Westminster Kingsway College, a sixth-form college in partnership with Birkbeck and a panel discussion to include Nigel Warburton (Philosophy Bites and AEON magazine founder) and Dr. Charlotte Joy (lecturer in anthropology at Goldsmiths and curator of the Horniman Museum)


Terms and conditions

By registering below you are requesting a place on this training programme or selected sessions that form part of the programme. A member of the CHASE team or the workshop leader will contact you in due course to confirm that a place has been allocated to you. If you no longer require a place, please email enquiries@chase.ac.uk as soon as possible so your name can be removed from the registration list.  

If you are allocated a place but can no longer attend, please email enquiries@chase.ac.uk so that your place can be reallocated. CHASE training is free to attend and events are often oversubscribed with a waiting list. Failure to notify us of non-attendance in good time (ideally 5 days prior to the workshop/programme) means your place cannot be reallocated and may result in your access to future CHASE training being restricted.

Register here

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I have read and agree to the terms and conditions of the training *