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At Home in Empire: Colonial Experiences of Intimacy and Mobility

A one-day interdisciplinary conference to be held on Saturday 13th March 2021

Keynote Speaker - Dr Kate Smith (University of Birmingham)

Call for Papers

While we hope to hold this conference as a face-to-face event , At Home in Empire may need to be held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We will keep you updated as developments take place.

What did "home" look like to men, women and children from London to Kingston to Calcutta? The aim of this conference is to bring together research across the fields of history, literature, geography, sociology, gender and queer studies and the heritage sector to reveal stories about the lived experiences of empire. Taking this interdisciplinary approach, we hope to advance new conversations about interracial relationships, lifecycles, and what it meant to belong against the backdrop of imperialism.

In his 1997 article ‘Not at Home in Empire’, Ranajit Guha explored the 'uncanny' experience of empire for white officers in India, proposing that colonial life was one marred by a sense of anxiety. Revisiting this argument, this conference seeks to reconsider the relationships between home and empire, bringing together researchers across the humanities and heritage sectors to ask new questions about the family, colonial childhoods, gender and race. Reflecting on homemaking as a practice of resistance, as well as a space marked by colonial violence and racism, this conference asks how we can explore the varied meanings of home in empire? We encourage contributors to approach home as both a material reality and imagined space, bringing these different conceptualizations together to discuss the ways in which colonised and colonising subjects navigate imperial geographies.

Our core themes of intimacy and mobility are intended to centre the role of relationships, from the familial to the romantic, asking how transnational and interracial connections are woven into practices of homemaking. Developing discussions on gender, race and migration, these themes will offer new insight into how homes were made and remade across colonial and post-colonial settings. How have lived realities of home challenged dominant discourses? How is home represented in literature and art? How do these relate to the messiness of everyday life? In a post-Brexit Britain deporting the children of the Windrush generation, it is imperative that the historical relationship between race, home and nation comes under new scrutiny. Addressing conceptions of belonging and their relationship to race and gender, we hope to offer new insight into what it means to be at home at both the periphery and metropole while disturbing binary notions through our emphasis on mobility.