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Colonial Complexity in the British Landscape: An African-centric autoethnography

Sobers, Shawn


Shawn Sobers
Professor of Cultural Interdisciplinary Practice


Sarah De Nardi

Hilary Orange

Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto

Steven High


This chapter explores the notion of what sites of collective significance in the UK can mean to people of African descent , whose ancestral lands were formerly colonised by the British Empire. With such a premise, the methodological position of this study is stated from the outset. Although I am of African descent, I am not attempting to make claims for a notional African diasporic community. An autoethnographic methodology (Chang, 2008) has therefore been adopted to avoid any attempt at speaking for others, or to be mistaken as such. Autoethnography asks the researcher to draw on personal experience to make broader theoretical points, and to make themselves as transparent and vulnerable in the process in order to highlight how research works and how knowledge is gathered (Behar, 1997). This is a personal physical, theoretical and emotional journey exploring these ideas, drawing on primary experience, observations and broader primary and secondary research. As stated by African American anthropologist Lanita Jacobs-Huey (2002: 791), ‘The Natives are gazing and talking back’. This essay offering two distinct ways the notion of post-colonial connections can be considered - Sites of Association, and Sites of Pilgrimage.


Behar, R. (1997) The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart. Beacon Press. London

Chang, H. (2008) Autoethnography As Method. Left Coast Press. Walnut Creek, California

Jacobs-Huey, L. (2002). ‘The Natives Are Gazing and Talking Back: Reviewing the Problematics of Positionality, Voice, and Accountability among "Native" Anthropologist. In: American Anthropologist, Vol. 104, No. 3 (Sep. 2002). P.p. 791-804


Sobers, S. (2019). Colonial Complexity in the British Landscape: An African-centric autoethnography. In S. De Nardi, H. Orange, E. Koskinen-Koivisto, & S. High (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Memory and Place. London: Routledge

Acceptance Date Jul 18, 2019
Publication Date Sep 5, 2019
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Book Title The Routledge Handbook of Memory and Place
ISBN 9780815386308
Keywords post-colonial, landscape, Haile Selassie, slavery, slave trade, Ethiopia, photography, pilgrimage, Lord Byron
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