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CLACS Caribbean Studies Seminar Series actively promotes intellectual engagement and knowledge exchange by providing scholars - including postgraduate students and early career researchers - with the opportunity to present their interdisciplinary, comparative and integrated research on the Caribbean.

Jessica Huntley's Pan-African Life - The Power and The Pain of 'The Below': Constructing Histories of Invisibilised Black Lives

Speaker: Claudia Tomlinson (independent)

In this presentation, I discuss my PhD research (undertaken at the University of Chichester): ‘The Biography of Jessica Huntley, A Political History of Radical Black Activism’, which is to be published as Jessica Huntley’s Pan-African Life (Bloomsbury, 2024). My research charts a new narrative about the life of the British-Guiana born activist who made her mark on the political landscape in her homeland before migrating to London in 1953. I provide an analysis of her decolonising work in Britain, particularly through the establishment of Bogle L’Ouverture Publications, which she co-founded to uplift Black writing, lives, culture, and art. I reflect on my methodological approaches in conducting oral history interviews to construct an academic biography. I discuss my experience of working in archival spaces, confronting, and overcoming barriers. Within that discussion, I explore my approach to the ethics and processes of work with racialised trauma in constructing histories of radical black lives. In particular how do Black writers and researchers shield themselves, and others, from re-traumatisation when doing historical research? What are the masks we need to don to survive this research and ensure the health and wellbeing of others?

I discuss the differences between visible lives and invisible historical lives, how can the invisible become visible? Visible to whom? Lastly, I discuss my journey from PhD to publication.

Dr Claudia Tomlinson is a writer and researcher on Guyanese, Caribbean, African and Black British History and Politics. Her doctoral thesis, a biography of the British Guyanese activist and publisher Jessica Huntley is being published by Bloomsbury Academic as Jessica Huntley’s Pan-African Life (October 2024). She is author of a book chapter in Many Struggles: New Histories of African and Caribbean People in Britain, edited by Hakim Adi, (Pluto, 2023). She is also author of a chapter — Post-War Organising by People of African and Caribbean Heritage — in the forthcoming book Routledge Handbook of Contemporary British History, editors Sarah Crook and Sarah Kenny, (Routledge, 2025).

All are welcome to attend this free seminar, which will be held online via Zoom at 16:00 BST (UK time). You will need to register in advance to receive the online joining link. Please click on the Book Now button at the top of the page to register.

Seminar Programme 2024/25
Autumn term
24 September 2024 
22 October 2024
19 November 2024
3 December 2024
Spring term

Eve Hayes de Kalaf (IHR), in collaboration with the Institute of Historical Research 

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