At Home in Empire: Colonial Experiences of Intimacy and Mobility

Conference, 13 March 2021, online

[PDF programme in attachment]

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.

To register, please complete the following form available via the Warwick HRC website:


09.30 – 09.45 Registration

09.45 – 10.00 Introduction

10.00 – 11.20 Session 1 – Curating and Collecting: Domesticity on Display

Charlotte Johnson (University of Birmingham): Colonial mobilities on display: the ‘Eastern Museum’ at Kedleston Hall

Matthew Jones (University of Sussex in Art History): Displaying resistance: the absence of domestic life in narrative of enslavement

Carl Deußen (University of Amsterdam and Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Cologne): Exotic Interiors: Ethnographic Collecting and the Bourgeois Home in Imperial Germany

11.20 – 11.30 Break

11.30 – 13.10 Session 2 – Making and Remaking Home

Claudia Soares (Queen Mary University of London): Understandings of home, family, and belonging for poor child migrants from institutional care, Britain, Australia and Canada c.1820-1920

Dayana Ariffin (University of Malaya): What makes a colonial family? Noor Mahmud Hashim’s journey in finding home and family in British Malaya

Yasmine Shamma (University of Reading): Home is where the Warak Anab is: The Palestinian Poetics of Cooking as home-making

Kate McGregor (University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada): Working for Weihnachtsstimmung: German Women’s Place in the Recreation and Reproduction of German Culture and Identity in the African Colonies, 1894- 1906

13.10 – 13.50 Lunch

13.50 – 15.10 Session 3 – Mobile Lives and Distant Homes

Katie Donington (London South Bank University): Domesticating slavery: At home with the Hibberts between Jamaica and England

Alex Lindgren-Gibson (University of Mississippi): Piecing Together Home: Making Sense of Family and Empire in the Papers of Mermanjan

Mikko Toivanen (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich): Imperial childhoods in transit: the journey of Corry and Hugh Loudon to the Dutch East Indies in 1871-2

15.10 – 15.20 Break

15.20 – 16.40 Session 4 – Spaces of Encounter

Marie Grace Brown (University of Kansas): Running Bachelors, Running Households: Kitchens and Intimacy in Imperial Sudan

Rosie Dias (University of Warwick): The View from the Veranda: Negotiating Gender and Race in Colonial South Asia

Ellen Smith (University of Leicester): Indian encounters: race, identity and cultural exchange in British home and family life in colonial South Asia

16.50 – 17.50 Keynote
Dr Kate Smith (University of Birmingham)

Contact (announcement)

Attached document(s):