My thesis looks at Christians and ‘race relations’ and anti-racist work in the ‘long sixties.’ I make a distinction between ‘race relations’ work and anti-racist activity, and my questions involve the public/private distinctions of Christianity, Christians’ relationship/s with politics, and the correlation between an internationalist perspective and successful anti-racist activities.
As a mature student, my motivations for starting university in my 30s were for the most part political in origin: I embarked on a degree in the Study of Religions at SOAS as I wanted factual knowledge to try to counter the rising levels of Islamophobia I was witnessing. Both my BA and my Masters (in Iranian Studies) allowed me to work in an interdisciplinary fashion utilising perspectives from critical theory, post-colonial theory, anthropology, sociology, politics, and so forth, whilst always simultaneously being rooted in history.
However, I now find myself within a history department and forced in some sense to consider myself a historian which, despite having a very supportive supervisor, feels deeply uncomfortable and confining, even though I wholeheartedly enjoy the mechanics of archival work. This uncomfortability reflects my own (erroneous?) opinion of history as a discipline: one which seems reluctant to engage with various critical, theoretical, and political insights. But too, my constant engagement with history also reflects my belief that history is, in fact, an incredibly important thing to study, something which has transformative powers and ‘radical’ possibilities buried somewhere within its stuffy self.
Therefore, I was excited to be a part of this interdisciplinary conference to see how other researchers understand and wrestle with the relationship between their politics and their academic work, especially in relation to history. I am very much looking forward to hearing a (hopefully!) wide-variety of viewpoints which will help me reflect further on my own academic work and the possibilities of utilising history for ‘radical’ ends.