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New Approach to Examine Hidden Histories of Slavery & Resistance

October 4, 2016

Huron University College is launching an exciting transatlantic student research project for the 2016-2017 academic year: Phantoms of the Past: Slavery, Resistance, History and Memory in the Atlantic World. Students of Dr. Nina Reid-Maroney and Dr. Amy Bell, both of  Huron’s History Department, and Dr. Neil Brooks of Huron’s Department of English and Cultural Studies, will collaborate with students of  Dr. Olivette Otele (FRHistS), Senior Lecturer in History at Bath Spa University, to examine hidden histories of slavery and resistance. This project takes an innovative approach towards interdisciplinary collaboration by combining shared coursework with a one-week research exchange. Huron students will travel to Bath and Bristol in reading week in February, and Bath Spa students will visit Huron in March.

Dr. Bell explains, “This project grew out of our desire to have students take advantage of our personal international research relationships, and to find new ways of thinking of student exchanges. We think that students will benefit not only from the experiences of learning in another country, but from the professional relationships they develop with their partner students and professors, which will hopefully extend into the years to come.

This collaboration will also be unique at Bath Spa University. Dr. Otele says, "This ground breaking project will be the first of its kind at Bath Spa University. The project encourages students to look at transnational history and sites of memory related to slavery. It aims at fostering further interests in the legacies of European Empires and identity formation."

Student airfare, local travel, and most costs for the research trip to England will be covered through a Huron Pilot Research Fund grant held by Drs. Bell, Brooks and Reid-Maroney; the support of the W. Galen Weston Fund for British History at Huron; additional support from RBC Foundation and the Trish Fulton Community-Based Learning Fund at Huron, and the support of Bath Spa University.  Huron students will create collaborative research networks with other students, with faculty, and with local community partners, which will enrich the course experience.  


As Dr. Reid-Maroney explains, “The project creates an extraordinary teaching environment. Students will contribute original research to the field, and have the chance to tell the world about it. Their research questions are of huge importance to the broader community. We want to know how histories of transatlantic slavery and resistance have been remembered and forgotten, sometimes commemorated, sometimes buried, in archives and public places. The ‘phantoms of the past’ still haunt us. And it is important to ask what our research findings can contribute to 21st-century discourse on race, justice, and freedom.”

While the History department is focusing on the traceable connections, Dr. Neil Brooks is excited to explore the literary side of slavery. He adds, “For me it’s about how the stories are told and not told.” He is interested in seeing the students explore these stories and how they interconnect across transatlantic texts and spaces.

The project will culminate with the launch of a research website at a conference hosted at Huron on March 24. Students and faculty from both universities, local community partners from African Canadian heritage sites, and secondary school students will participate. The conference will also feature Bath Spa University researcher Richard White, whose work on historical memory uses performative walking practice and linked social media to invite critical reflection on history, memory, and landscape.

The collaborators hope
this transformative research pedagogy will lead to future collaborations across disciplines and faculties at Huron, building an institutional framework for future student research mobility between Huron and Bath Spa University. Updated information for prospective participants is posted at huronresearch.ca/history.