by Brian Murray, Senior Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature, King’s College London
The toppling of the statue of slave trader and MP Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Bristol on 7th June has led to a predictable wave of outrage at the ‘erasure of history’. But what kinds of history might a statue be said to embody or project? The Colston statue was 125 years old. But it is also an idealised late-Victorian representation of seventeenth-century subject (unveiled 174 years after Colston’s death). What did Colston mean to Bristolians in 1895? Contemporary reports of the statue’s erection in the Bristol Mercury – accessed via the British Library Newspapers database – offer a glimpse of the new monument at its first unveiling. Continue reading Erasing History? Colston in Bristol→
PhD candidate Pavan Mano explores how the seeming reticence of Singapore’s biggest queer movement to openly challenge the status-quo is in fact its key organising strength.
Singapore can be a strange country in many ways. And one of those ways is how it projects an image of a modern, forward-looking metropolis whilst remaining home to a backward (albeit unenforced) law in the form of Section 377A – a legislative hangover from British coloniality – that criminalizes sex between men. Section 377A isn’t an anomaly in the Singaporean landscape – it’s merely the most visible symptom of the primacy of place that heterosexuality retains in the country. Which, amongst other things, means that there’s plenty of work for queer movements to do in terms of advocacy and activism. And one of these movements is Pink Dot.
by Gordon McMullan, Professor of English at King’s College London and Director of the London Shakespeare Centre
A little over a century ago, King’s English professor Israel (later Sir Israel) Gollancz –medievalist, Shakespearean and founding member of the British Academy – published a substantive commemorative volume to mark the Shakespeare Tercentenary of 1916. Grandly titled A Book of Homage to Shakespeare, it contains a hundred and sixty-six contributions – poems, essays, encomia – reflecting the pre-eminence of Shakespeare’s works in global culture: a poem by Thomas Hardy, a eulogy by John Galsworthy, a humorous ‘vision’ by Rudyard Kipling, a poem by a former New Zealand High Commissioner entitled ‘The Dream Imperial’, along with enthusiastic pieces by Shakespeare scholars and politicians from across the world.
Configurations of Empire is an interdisciplinary reading group for researchers and postgraduate students that explores the conditions of life, labour, and belonging under contemporary formations of capitalism. It runs in parallel from two sites: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and through the London Arts and Humanities Partnership at King’s College London. We meet regularly to discuss readings from the latest scholarship in critical race, feminist, queer, postcolonial, Marxist, disability, and decolonial theory. These parallel reading groups have culminated in a yearly conference in which both groups come together to share how our mutual readings have informed our research.
Christine received her PhD from King’s in November 2018 and is now a Research Fellow in the English Department at the University of Warwick. Christine’s supervisors at King’s College London were Jane Elliott and John Howard. Her PhD was examined by Nicole King (Goldsmiths) and Celeste-Marie Bernier (Edinburgh). As part of the Leverhulme funded project ‘World Literature and Commodity Frontiers: The Ecology of the ‘long’ 20th Century’ run by Mike Niblett (Warwick) and Chris Campbell (Exeter), Christine is writing a monograph tentatively entitled The Novel of Extraction.
Harriet is a PhD student in the English department and co-editor of the King’s English blog.
Harriet Thompson (HT): I wanted to start by congratulating you on completing your PhD last year. The catalyst for our conversation was the news that you’ve recently been awarded one of only six Elsevier Outstanding PhD Thesis Prizes granted at King’s in January 2019, and the only award granted to a thesis in the Faculty of the Arts and Humanities. I know your thesis explores the integration of African immigrant literature into the economic, political, and cultural fabric of the United States. I wonder if you could talk about how your research relates to ongoing debates about the value of migration and particularly the issue of which migrant persons are deemed valuable or disposable?
Christine Okoth (OK): Thank you so much – I’m still quite shocked that I even have a PhD let alone that my examiners thought it was good enough for a prize! In what is probably a familiar tale, I had no idea what my thesis would eventually become when I started at King’s in 2014. It all started with Lisa Lowe’s Immigrant Acts, a book that I encountered during my masters and that remains my favourite academic monograph. In it, Lowe develops a theory of Asian American political and cultural production as a kind of antithesis to the American national project. The history of Asian exclusion, which, by the way, isn’t taught nearly widely enough in UK universities, serves as the backdrop to Lowe’s argument. The idea that immigration legislation relates closely to the position that cultural production by immigrants holds within the U.S. nation-state stayed with me. I wanted to ask more questions about how the sudden popularity of African migrant literature – Adichie’s Americanah and Teju Cole’s Open City for example – related to shifts in U.S. immigration legislation. These novels weren’t exactly narratives of exclusion but are instead emergent genres of integration that take place against the backdrop of a changing political discourse around immigration.