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Title: Material cultures of imperialism in Eastern Africa, c.1870-1920 : a study of ethnographic collecting and display
Author: Bennett, Alison
ISNI:       0000 0004 7965 0320
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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This dissertation examines the entangled relationship between ethnographic collecting and early British imperial expansion in present-day Uganda and neighbouring parts of Kenya. Between 1870 and 1920, thousands of objects from this region were accessioned by British museums and their colonial counterparts in eastern Africa. However, historians and curators alike know remarkably little about the contexts of their acquisition. Histories of the colonial period in Uganda and Kenya have rarely engaged with these crucial material sources, relying instead upon methodologies that privilege the textual and oral archive. Meanwhile in museum histories and displays, objects from eastern Africa are eclipsed by material culture from western Africa and Egypt. By combining close object analysis with archival and visual material, and by drawing on theoretical approaches to material culture from anthropology, this thesis reassembles the rich and complex histories of this important material archive for the first time. In doing so, it reveals the significant material underpinnings of both imperial and counter-imperial activity in the region. Focusing on a variety of different collectors ranging from colonial officials to missionaries, local leaders and museums, it shows that collecting was a pivotal tool for mediating different encounters, relationships, identities, and power structures within colonial society. In the process, this thesis makes three important interventions. It offers original new perspectives on early British imperial history in eastern Africa, it contributes to our wider understanding of imperial collecting, and it develops our knowledge of the colonial histories of museums and their collections.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available