Black Lives Matter: Race, Imperialism, and Victorian Studies (BAVS Annual Symposium)

Sara Forbes Bonetta. Brighton, 1862. Photograph: Paul Frecker collection/Library of 19th-Century Photography

This event has been reposted from The Victorianist (the official blog of BAVS PGs). Follow them for the latest news, grants, and events in Victorian Studies.

BAVS Annual Symposium, Tuesday 21 July 2020, 2-6pm (14:00-18:00 BST)

Organised by members of the BAVS executive committee, this online symposium aims to respond to recent Black Lives Matter events, Victorian studies, and questions of race and colonialism in nineteenth-century studies. We aim to utilise this symposium to launch BAVS initiatives that are in process in light of discussions relating to BLM, and in acknowledgement of the problematic role played by Victorian history, art history, and literature in contemporary discourses of race.

This is a free event. Please register here:


14:00-14:15: Opening Remarks: Prof. Dinah Birch (University of Liverpool; BAVS President)

14:15-14:35: Dr Deirdre Osborne (Goldsmiths, UoL), ‘…the throbbing of secret shame’ (Amy Levy): Imperial-Colonial Accountability and Consequentialist Aesthetics’.

14:35 – 14:55: Dr Shahmima Akhtar (Institute of Historical Studies, UoL), ‘Ireland in the Columbian Exposition of 1893: Women, Work and Whiteness’.

14: 55-15:15: Discussion

15: 15-15:30: Coffee/Comfort Break

15: 30 – 15:50: Dr Shruti Kapila (Corpus Christi, Cambridge), ‘The Political History of Race and Empire in India’.

15: 50- 16:10: Hardeep Singh Dhindsa (Independent Scholar), ‘The Nightmare of Rome: Remnants of Colonial Thought in Boris Johnson’s The Dream of Rome’.

16: 10-16: 30: Discussion

16:30-16:45: Coffee/Comfort Break

16: 45 – 17: 45: Keynote: Prof. Gretchen Gerzina (University of Massachusetts Amherst), ‘The Black Woman and Victorian Studies’.

17:45 – 18:15: Round Table: All Speakers

Member of the African Choir, London Stereoscopic Company, 1891. Photograph: Courtesy of © Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Gretchen Gerzina (University of Massachusetts, Amherst):

Gretchen H. Gerzina has written or edited nine books, and numerous articles, on Black Studies and British Studies. These include Black England: Life before EmancipationBlack Victorians/Black Victoriana; a biography of Frances Hodgson Burnett and several editions of The Secret Garden; and Mr and Mrs Prince. Her latest book is Britain’s Black Past, based on a ten-part Radio 4 series she presented. She has been the Eastman Professor at Oxford, the Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor in Biography at Dartmouth College, and is the Paul Murray Kendall Professor of Biography and Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 2018 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2019 to the American Antiquarian Society.


Deirdre Osborne (Goldsmiths): 

Deirdre Osborne is a Reader in English Literature and Drama at Goldsmiths University of London and Visiting Professor, University of the Arts, London. She co-convenes the MA Black British Writing which received a Student Union Award for ‘Compelling and Diverse Curriculum’ (2018). Her research interests span late-Victorian literature and maternity, to Landmark Poetics, mixedness, adoption aesthetics and Black writing. She edited the first Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945-2010) and is Associate Editor of Women’s Writing (Taylor and Francis).


Shahmima Akhtar (Past and Present Fellow, UoL):

Shahmima Akhtar is Past & Present Fellow: Race, Ethnicity & Equality in History working with the Royal Historical Society and the Institute for Historical Research to advance the RHS Race, Ethnicity & Equality Working Group (REEWG). Her PhD thesis traced constructions of Irish identity in national and international fairs between 1851 and 1939. Highlighting the politics of display provides an important contribution to historiographies on exhibitions, Ireland and empire, and race. Over the two years of her Past and Present postdoctoral fellowship, Shahmima will work to embed the aims of the RHS Race, Ethnicity & Equality Report in UK Higher Education History. She is also developing her PhD into a monograph and articles.
Dr Shruti Kapila (Corpus Christi, Cambridge):


Shruti Kapila (Cambridge):

Shruti Kapila is Lecturer in History at Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge.


Hardeep Singh Dhindsa (Independent Scholar):

Hardeep Dhindsa is a classicist and art historian who focuses on white identity within classical reception. Covering a wide range of topics, including whitewashing, British nationalism, and classical pedagogy, he wants to explore the origins of ‘British identity’ and the role Classics played in it. Hardeep spent five years at the University of Edinburgh, studying an MA (Hons) in History of Art and an MSc in Classical Art and Archaeology, and this September he will begin a PhD in Classics Research at King’s College London. Previous publications include decolonising Edinburgh’s New Town, and exclusionary environments in Classics.

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