Colonial Ports and Global History (CPAGH)

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Founded in 2018, CPAGH is an interdisciplinary network at TORCH that fosters collaborative thinking about colonial ports and global history, creates an exciting and diverse hub of related expertise, and brings together scholars and practitioners across a range of career stages and cultural backgrounds.                         


Colonial ports are dynamic nodes of political, economic and socio-cultural activity, connecting people, ideas and objects and, thus, playing a key role in shaping global history as a practice. Although the concepts, methodologies and languages that inform this research often transcend disciplinary ‘borders’, colonial ports, to date, have often been researched in isolation rather than synergistically. With that potentiality in mind, CPAGH aims to revisit, in democratic and provocative ways, the constructed idea of the ‘colonial port’, with a view to disentangling (but not automatically divorcing) such an idea from lingering narratives of Anglo-imperial and maritime history. In doing so, CPAGH aims to explore – through boundary-crossing conversations across and beyond the Humanities – the salient concerns of methodology, pedagogy and equitable knowledge in the practice of global history, and in academies of the twenty-first century.     


Indeed, while colonial ports vary greatly in their political, historical, economic and socio-cultural conditions, their impact on the ways researchers (re)map and (re)interpret knowledge is best substantiated through a vibrant exchange that is comparative, relational and multicultural in perspective. CPAGH aims, therefore, to facilitate and further such a dialogue through targeted activities, connecting archival and ethnographic researchers on related questions of epistemology, historiography and agency; and interfacing these researchers with such stakeholders as archivists, curators, performing musicians, A-Level students and adult learners. In doing so, CPAGH aims to engender a more comprehensive, widely intelligible and post-Eurocentric approach to studying colonialism in global history, the attendant and underlying asymmetries of power, and their enduring legacies across time and place.         


CPAGH’s co-founders, moreover, take a particular interest in postcolonial theory and decolonial praxis, and the ways these can pluralistically enrich the practice of global history, taking into account but also venturing beyond global history’s western-centric paradigms. Crucially, it is in emphasising a shared enterprise that CPAGH advocates a new knowledge exchange across disciplinary canons, and a global research ethics attuned to questions of access and local narratives.


CPAGH has four advisors with related and richly varied expertise: Prof Elleke Boehmer (English, Wolfson), Prof Erica Charters, (History, Wolfson), Prof James McDougall (History, Trinity) and Prof David Pratten (Social Anthropology, St Antony’s). 


2018–19 Activities


On Thursday 8 November 2018, CPAGH’s multimedia launch took place at the Grade II listed St Luke’s Chapel, attracting a full house. Key to the proceedings were position statements by CPAGH’s advisors and invited panellists, musical interludes performed by a student ensemble and a sound work on the theme ‘Colonial Ports: Nodes of Global History?’, concluding with a lively provocative discussion.       


On Saturday 9 March 2019, CPAGH collaborated with the Pitt Rivers Museum for a public engagement activity titled ‘Global Ports: Postcolonial Enclosures?’. Central to this activity were its three sensory-themed stations – tasting/smelling, seeing/feeling, hearing/listening – with various museum objects and stimulating short talks given by CPAGH’s co-founders, who animated through the senses such entwined themes as slavery, migration and colonial collecting practices. The guided talks were enthusiastically received by museum visitors from a range of age groups and nationalities. 

On 2 and 3 May 2019, CPAGH returned to St Luke’s Chapel to host its international interdisciplinary conference, ‘Sensing Colonial Ports and Global History: Agency, Affect, Temporality’. Adding to the keynotes by historian Leila Fawaz (Tufts) and musicologist Benjamin Walton (Cambridge), and preceding the various panels of individual papers, was the World Café, an all-participatory workshop to kick off the proceedings. CPAGH’s first conference brought together scholars from five continents, and cutting-edge expertise from such fields as Archaeology, Area Studies, English, History, Italian and Comparative Literature, Musicology, Sociology and Visual Anthropology.      



CPAGH co-founders & email:


Julia Binter (Social Anthropology)

Olivia Durand (History)

Dr Yvonne Liao (Musicology)

Dr Helena F. S. Lopes (History) - from AY 2019–20

Dr Katharina Oke (History)

Min-Erh Wang (Musicology)

Dr Hatice Yıldız (History)



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