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Personal profile

Academic Background

M.A. in History, Erasmus University Rotterdam (1992)
Ph.D in Social Science, University of Amsterdam (2001)  


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.

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.

Research Grants

  • 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.




Areas of Expertise

Anthropology, esp. of secrecy; ethnicity; performance; initiation; art; heritage and memory; Senegal.

Teaching Interests

  • Anthropology
  • African art
  • Material culture
  • Public art
  • Cityscapes
  • Art, aesthetics and performance
  • Archive

 Research supervision 

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

The Archive

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities