ISRF Mid-Career Fellow 2021-22
ISRF Mid-Career Fellow 2021-22
Kate Dossett is Professor of American History at the University of Leeds. She is a historian of the twentieth century United States with broad interests in cultural and political history and specializations in African American History, Gender histories and histories of the African Diaspora. She has published widely on Black cultural history including theatre, the Harlem Renaissance, Black Feminism and the histories of the archive. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Women’s History, African American Review, the Journal of American Studies and the Journal of American Drama and Theatre. She is the author of the award-winning book, Bridging Race Divides: Feminism, Nationalism and Integration, 1896-1935.
Her latest book, Radical Black Theatre in the New Deal, examines Black theatre making and performance in the 1930s and was published in the John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture by the University of North Carolina Press in Spring 2020. Kate is especially interested in working with contemporary theatre makers to revise, remake and reimagine the ways in which we understand Black heritage and history through culture.
Projects include working with the National Theatre in London on African American Playwriting in the Twentieth Century and with the Eccles Centre at the British Library on Black theatre manuscripts in the Lord Chamberlain’s Plays Collection.
Surveillance archives are often viewed negatively: activists see them as enemy territory, while many theorists view surveillance as an oppressive force. What then are the implications for black cultural heritage and contemporary black arts if the state and its surveillance systems were –and continue to be – important archivists of black culture? Through this fellowship I will argue that archives of surveillance are an important counter archive for Black British History. I propose to rethink our understanding of the relationship between archives, performance and surveillance by comparing cultural surveillance archives collected by the British and American state in the first half of the twentieth century. Modern historical narratives of these two distinct yet intertwined surveillance systems tend to contrast the public, and widespread investigations of “un-American” activities in the early Cold War United States with the seemingly more moderate, but extensive and covert British surveillance practices of the interwar years. This study asks not which was more harmful, but how different surveillance cultures determined what was collected and preserved, and how this has shaped access to and continues to influence knowledge of black history on both sides of the Atlantic. African Americans stories often serve to displace the research and transmission of Black British stories: Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are household names, but few have heard of British Black Power activist Olive Morris, or Una Marson, the BBC’s first black woman programme maker and presenter during the Second World War. Bringing together archivists, researchers and performers to unpick the history of surveillance archives and explore new uses for them in the future, this project investigates how and when historical surveillance archives empower the surveyed and influence the surveyors, in and beyond, the moment of their creation.