Research themes

(De-)Colonizing Bodies and Minds 

Imperialism was predicated on processes of colonizing both the minds and bodies of its subjects, but those processes were always incomplete and contested. Decolonizing minds and bodies is an ongoing project of postcolonial theory and decolonial thought, a project many of our scholars are involved with as they seek to trace the history of such cultural, psychological and physical colonization.  One key strand of this research is our strength in (post-)colonial gender histories, where we have a particular focus on African and Indian gender histories, investigating how colonialism and its structural and cultural legacies have impacted men and women in similar and dissimilar ways.  Emily Bridger’s research has highlighted the importance of female youth to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, exploring why female students and youth joined the liberation struggle, the roles they played, and how they today narrate and make sense of their former activism. Her current research tackles questions surrounding South Africa’s contemporary ‘rape epidemic’ by providing a history of sexual violence in the country, investigating how African women have conceptualised, experienced, and sought justice against the ubiquitous violence that shapes their day-to-day lives. Stacey Hynd researches the comparative experiences of girl and boy soldiers in contemporary African conflicts and works more broadly on histories of African women in colonial courts. PhD students Rhian Keyse and Bethany Rebisz are illuminating the gendered dimensions of British colonial welfare and development policies, focusing on forced marriage and on rehabilitation and population-centric counterinsurgency in the Mau Mau Emergency respectively. Moving to Indian experiences, Gajendra Singh’s work on Indian soldiers’ testimonies about their experiences of the First and Second World Wars highlights their fragmented masculine identities as both colonial subjects and imperial policemen, whilst PhD student Prashant researches the position of women in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Maratha Empire law and society. Aside from gender, our researchers also have a strong interest in (post-)colonial youth identities and youth politics in Africa and former socialist countries, with Stacey Hynd and Emily Bridger researching children in political violence and Ljubica Spaskovska working on youth politics in Yugoslavia.  

Through our connections with Centre for Medical History and the Wellcome Centre for Environments and Cultures of Health, we also have a particular strength in global and (post-)colonial medical histories. The project offers the first historical account of the role of non-Western experts and patients in shaping emerging global networks of knowledge production and exchange. Dora Vargha’s work explores the global and local dimensions of public health emergencies, most notably the series of polio epidemics in communist Hungary. Her current research on ‘Socialist Medicine’ pioneers a new history of global health that for the first time explores the impact of socialist internationalism in co-producing global health in the twentieth century. Rebecca Williams examines how and why India became a ‘laboratory’ for population control intervention in the post-war period, looking particularly at sterilisation campaigns during the 1975-77 Emergency and at the gendering of family planning programmes, whilst PGR student Meg Kanazawa investigates tensions between global and local responses to HIV/AIDS in India.