Seminar Series

TB1 2022/23


1. Welcome & Social
Tuesday 27th September, 4.30pm – 6pm.

Welcome (Dr Saima Nasar and Professor Madhu Krishnan) and funding presentation (Valerie Aspen). Wine and snacks.

Humanities Building, The Research Space (first floor, room 1.H020).

2. José Lingna Nafafé (University of Bristol): Book Launch: Lourenço da Silva Mendonça and the Black Atlantic Abolitionist Movement in the Seventeenth Century
Tuesday 4th October, ​4.30pm – 6pm.

This groundbreaking study tells the story of the highly organised, international legal court case for the abolition of slavery spearheaded by Prince Lourenço da Silva Mendonça in the seventeenth century. The case, presented before the Vatican, called for the freedom of all enslaved people and other oppressed groups. This included New Christians (Jews converted to Christianity) and Indigenous Americans in the Atlantic World, and Black Christians from confraternities in Angola, Brazil, Portugal and Spain. Abolition debate is generally believed to have been dominated by white Europeans in the eighteenth century. By centring African agency, José Lingna Nafafé offers a new perspective on the abolition movement, showing, for the first time, how the legal debate was begun not by Europeans, but by Africans. In the first book of its kind, Lingna Nafafé underscores the exceptionally complex nature of the African liberation struggle, and demystifies the common knowledge and accepted wisdom surrounding African slavery.

Humanities Building, The Research Space (first floor, room 1.H020).

3. Bill Schwarz (QMUL): Race After Windrush. What is the Historical Significance of Andrea Levy?
Monday 10th October, ​4.30pm – 6pm.

Humanities Building, The Research Space (first floor, room 1.H020).

4. Adam Elliot-Cooper (QMUL), ‘Bobbies in Babylon: Black Resistance to British Policing’.                                                                 Tuesday 25th October, 4.30pm – 6pm.

The summer of 2020 saw the largest black-led protests in UK history. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets across Britain, primarily focused on the ongoing problem of police racism. Britain had not seen black-led protests on this scale since the early 1980s, and this paper examines some of the impediments to radical black action and thought during that thirty year period. The liberalisation of black politics the 21st century is analysed through the language of diversity, hate crime, privilege and unconscious bias. These processes offer a window into how grassroots collective action against state power can be displaced by individualised policies which focus on racial prejudice. The paper goes on to argue that police brutality is always a point of antagonism that invests black social life with recurrent sites of contestation. In other words, policing is where moments flare up to shed light on other issues. These moments include specific case of police violence, but also the everyday forms of state power and control which criminalise black spaces, black lives and black cultures. It is this direct antagonism with the state that enables a more radical black politics to break away from the limitations of liberal anti-racism, culminating in protest movements like Black Lives Matter.

Humanities Building, The Research Space (first floor, room 1.H020).

6. Hannah Robbins (University of Nottingham), ‘Positionality and self-advocacy: reflections on Lena Horne and directions in musical theatre scholarship’.
Tuesday 22nd November, ​4.30pm – 6pm. 

Lena Horne remains one of the most famous African American stars to feature in (stage and) screen musicals. However, her contribution and the reception to her career have always been viewed in conversation with ethnic ambiguity and distance from other Black artists. In this paper, I question how our understanding of Horne’s career and identity have been constructed through racist biases and consider how she navigated her experiences of racism by maintaining her own voice and community. Note: this talk will include discussions of structural racism, racist language, and racial discrimination. Where at all possible, outdated language has been removed.

G.16, Victoria Rooms.

All welcome!


Seminar Series

TB2 2022/23

1. Dr Liam Liburd (Durham University): ‘Down with British fascism’: Black Power, the British White Supremacist Movement, and the Politics of Race in 1970s Britain
Monday 6th February, 4.30pm – 6pm.

In the March 1970 issue of the Black People’s News Service, a newsletter published by the British Black Panther Movement (BPM), a two-page account of recent instances of institutional discrimination and violence against Black people, ended with the slogan ‘Down with British fascism’ printed across the bottom of the concluding page. The BPM were not the only group within Britain’s disparate Black Power movement – which consisted of several organisations and publications – to use the term ‘fascism’. This paper explores the use of the term ‘fascism’ by the Black Power activists in Britain during the 1970s. Taking inspiration from the work of Alberto Toscano on the anti-fascism of African American Black Panthers like Angela Davis and George Jackson, it argues that British Black Power activists did not just use ‘fascism’ as a rhetorical term of abuse, but that their use of the term reflects a development and elaboration on an older, transnational Black radical analysis of fascism with roots in the 1930s as identified by Cedric Robinson. The BPM and their comrades used ‘fascism’ to refer both to Britain’s actually existing white supremacist movement (the National Front & co.) and to the broader issue of institutional racism within the British state and within wider society. They applied the term to both street and state racism, an expression of the way that they regarded these as two faces of the same problem. This paper makes the case for borrowing from their ‘joined-up’ analysis of British racism to revise our historical understanding of the politics of race in Britain. Both specialist studies of British fascism and studies of ‘race’ and racism within British society tend to both ‘other’ and underestimate the forces of organised white supremacism in Britain. Specialist studies have tended to approach fascism as distinct, unique, almost exceptional, pinning it down like a rare insect species in a specimen case. Studies of British history, on the other hand, tend to spotlight Enoch Powell while overlooking the National Front, which acted (in spite of its leadership’s ambiguous views on Powell) as a force for ‘Powellism’ on the streets of Britain. Using insights and experiences drawn from Black British history, this paper will challenge these tendencies and, in doing so, ultimately, seeks to show how Black British history can be used to transform our understanding of Britain’s history more broadly.

Humanities Building, The Research Space (first floor, room 1.H020).

2. KEYNOTE LECTURE: Lola Olufemi (University of Westminster and the Stuart Hall Foundation): ‘Only the Promise of Liberation’
Rescheduled to: Tuesday 18th April. 

“Only when radicalism is costumed… is there a certainty to it. Otherwise it is about a kind of resistance that does not promise truimph or victory at the end, only liberation. No nice package at the end, only that you would be free. Only the promise of liberation, only the promise of liberation.” – Cedric Robinson. Following Cedric Robinson, this intervention examines one of the most persistent affective orientations to oppressive governing forces in the UK: immobility. Using a feminist method of inquiry rooted in textuality it asks, how might we utilise the imagination, particularly as it manifests in material related to feminist and anti-racist political mobilisations, to become affectively and temporally mobile and animate what Robinson called the ‘promise of liberation?’ This intervention examines the purpose, utility and function of the imagination in the work of anti-racist and feminist grassroots political mobilisations in the UK in order to offer a space to engage with the multiple threats that constitute the contemporary political moment. It argues that understanding the imagination as material substance rooted in a relational politic might enable us to scale it up for the purpose of fortifying resistance movements and become, unstuck.

Venue: TBC

3. Hannah Cusworth (English Heritage): Mahogany, West African Knowledge and the Slavery Archive.
Monday 6th March, 4.30pm – 6pm.

This paper explores the challenges of researching the role West African knowledge may have played in the early colonial Jamaican mahogany trade. Despite a high likelihood that forestry knowledge held by enslaved West Africans was central to the beginnings of the trade, the records most respected by the Western academy are almost completely silent. What does this mean for scholars, particularly Black scholars, trying to do this work? What changes when Black Studies scholarship is brought into the equation?

Humanities Building, The Research Space (first floor, room 1.H020).


4. Dr Ben Mechen (University of Bristol): ‘No Trespass’: Black Arts and Black Environment in 1980s Britain  
Monday 13th March, 4.30pm – 6pm.

Humanities Building, The Research Space (first floor, room 1.H020).

5. Black British Music: Sacred and Secular Study Day. Free event with livestreamed keynotes. Details and Eventbrite:   

Saturday 25th March, all day. 


For any queries about Centre events, please contact