Atlantic History, Historiography, Aquatic History, Political Ecology, Riverine and Littoral Spaces (West/Central Africa), Race (Blackness), Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Political Theory
I am a 3rd Year (2022-23) PhD Student and Fulbright Scholar from SE London, England, in the Geography Department at the University of California, Berkeley. I work within the Racial Geographies Research Cluster as an aquatic historian of the Atlantic World and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. My research concerns questions of West/Central African aquatic history and political ecologies, the Slave Ship, racialization and its origins.
My research project is concerned with understanding the conditions whereby Blackness became associated with danger, terror, and criminality. I am interested in the origins of this in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and in sequentially theorizing three spatial contexts: (1) the riverine environments of the west/central African interior, (2) the littoral and coastal areas of this region, and (3) the slave ship and the shark. I will examine the processes which developed an association between Blackness and danger using the themes of risk, fear, and domination. In making these connections, my project will show how the long shadow of these associations reproduces the condition of Black subjugation through incarceration. Thus I show how the terrorization of the enslaved became terrorizing to the enslavers, how for the enslavers the enslaved became Black, and how Black became dangerous and criminalized.
BSc Politics and International Relations, University of Bristol (UK)
First Class with Honors, awarded October 2020
Study Abroad Exchange Year, University of California, Berkeley - (2018/2019)
University of California Education Abroad Program
Focus: Ancient History and African American Studies
I am interested in thinking through the danger of Blackness, and how this works beyond associations with criminalization and incarceration (Alexander, 2012). From within the context of the Black child, specifically the Black male teenager in the K-12 setting, I will investigate Special Educational Needs and 'challenging behavior'. This is a site that is both the extension of, and reproduction of, the historical association between Blackness and danger (Annamma, 2018; Brown et al, 2017). My work will also investigate and theorize disabled learning profiles within the political context of Blackness, exclusion and rebellion.
I will argue that an association between Blackness and danger was formalized in the interior spaces and waterscapes of West/Central Africa and on board the Slave Ship. Hence processes involving disabled Black children can be understood through the association between Blackness and danger, using the themes of risk, fear, and domination. The pathologization of non-disabled Black children then further 'Blackens' their educational experience, creating confinement within the school setting. These are spaces that can be physical detention units or are present conceptually in hostile pedagogical practices (Annamma, 2018). The management of the enslaved, including the invocation of an adult/child distinction - understood using these themes - then forms a historical template through which to understand Special Educational Needs and disabled learning profiles (Simplican, 2015).
Annamma, S.A. (2018) The Pedagogy of Pathologization: Dis/abled Girls of Color in the School-prison Nexus: The Pedagogy of Pathologization. New York: Routledge.
Brown, L. et al (eds) (2017) All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism. Lincoln, NE: DragonBee Press.
Simplican, S. Clifford. (2015) Capacity Contract Intellectual Disability and the Question of Citizenship. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
At UC Berkeley, I am an active neurodiversity advocate, campaigner and policy developer. In Fall 2022, I was nominated to serve on the UC Berkeley Graduate Divisions inaugural 'Neurodiversity Task Force' - an initiative I helped to develop. I will co-write a report, with other committee members, making recommendations on neurodiversity provision and the future of graduate education at Cal.
Currently, I am working with Dr. Peter Cornish, the co-director of Counselling and Psychological Services at UC Berkeley, to develop a holistic Neurodivergent Care Team. This is an intervention aimed at demarcating the distinction between learning differences/disabilities and acute mental health challenges. Within this initiative, I will co-develop best practice guidelines, sharing these more widely across the UC-system, and beyond.
I am also an advocate for disabled students and the politics of disability. As Project Director for the Graduate Assemblies Disabled Students Advocacy Project (2021-2022), I co-founded the Disability Beyond Compliance initiative and co-wrote the 'DSP Crisis Quick Guide' with fellow Graduate Student Rosa Enriquez, M.S.W. The initiative secured over $60k of funding to use in a three-year development plan to institutionalize thinking through disability beyond compliance at Cal.
I also wrote a 24-page report entitled 'Exclusion by Design: An Infrastructure of Inaccessibility, and Systematic Disability Discrimination Practices,' which tracks the challenges facing disabled graduate students on campus, and lists opportunities for policy and programmatic improvements. This report was shared and discussed widely inside and outside UCB, and formed the launch point for a Fireside Chat with UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ on disabled graduate student services, which I co-chaired.
Additionally, as a Diversity and Community Fellow (2021/2022 – 2022/2023), I co-developed the Graduate Student Child Welfare System Impacted Youth Initiative. Together with the Berkeley Hope Scholars, I co-led efforts with the Graduate Division to host the first town hall for this community. The objectives were to accept a new definition for child welfare system impacted youth (replacing the previous Federal definition of Foster Youth), to change the Berkeley graduate application process with this new definition and way of being immediately routed to relevant campus services, a funded monthly dinner for this student group, a dual-mentorship model program for graduate students, and to double scholarship funding for Graduate students who are child welfare system impacted. All of these objectives were achieved, the policy suggestions agreed upon, and are currently being implemented by Graduate Division. As of Fall 2022, Graduate students who are child-welfare system impacted are benefiting from the doubling of their scholarship to $6k per student, which collectively amounts to an additional $40k of funding per year for this student group. All of the work that followed the town hall was done on a volunteer basis; I was not formally employed by the campus to initiate this effort.
To spur wider implementation, I presented my efforts and strategic plan, together with Charly King Beavers (Berkeley Hope Scholars Coordinator), at the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Regional Conference (region 9) in Spring 2022. For these efforts, I was awarded the inaugural University of California Regents Leadership Award for services to Foster Youth (2022).
I have received numerous awards for my community engagement and also UK press attention for my advocacy, including website and YouTube profiles in The Times, Times Radio, ITV This Morning, BBC Radio 4 Today, and Ian Wright’s Everyday People podcast.
Graduate Student Reader: Urban Studies 70AC (Professor Brandi Summers)
Graduate Student Researcher: Geography Department Anti-Racism Working Group
Scholarships & Awards
The Fulbright Scholarship: The Fulbright All Discipline Award (2020/21) - US-UK Fulbright Commission
The Fulbright Alumni Award: (2020/21)
- Awarded to Fulbrighters who ‘embody exceptional ambassadorial qualities’, limited to one annual award. It is the highest additional accreditation the US-UK Fulbright Commission can give.
The University of California Regents Leadership Award for Services to Foster Youth 2022, University of California
- Awarded by President Michael Drake and Chair of the Regents Richard Leib; I was the inaugural recipient of this now annual award.
R. Kirk Underhill Graduate Fellowship (2020/21) - UC Berkeley
- Awarded to graduate students whose research focuses on Anglo-American affairs, and US-UK relations or comparisons.
Andrew W. Mellon Black Studies Collaboratory Summer Fellowship (2021/2022) - UC Berkeley African-American Studies Department
- Selective and merit-based small grants available to faculty, staff and students whose research centers ‘Blackness’ and collaboration.
Geography Department Summer Research Fellowship (2021/2022) - UC Berkeley
- Merit-based fellowship fund available to Geography PhD students conducting research over the summer.
Diversity and Community Fellow, UC Berkeley Graduate Division (2021/2022 – 2022/2023)
- Fellows advance and implement the diversity and inclusion goals of the Office for Graduate Diversity and the Graduate Division.
conferences & symposia
Andrew W. Mellon Black Studies Collaboratory Small Grantee Symposium 2022, UC Berkeley - September 9 th , 2022
- Panelist, title: ‘The Death Walk: Special Educational Needs and Psychiatry as Encounters of Confinement’
National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Region 9/CAL-CAAN Conference 2022, Orange County, California – March 16th – 18th, 2022
- Co-Lead Workshop Facilitator/Presenter, title: ‘Don't Stop, Won't Stop: From Foster Care to Graduate School’
MediaX at Stanford University series: Flying Without Co-pilots: Opportunities to Bridge Gaps in the Support Ecosystem for Children with Autism – January 12th, 2022
- Panelist, title: ‘The Relationship between Blackness, Autism and Carcerality’
The Al Noor Global Summit 2021: Frontiers of Disability Rehabilitation and Inclusion International Virtual Conference, Dubai UAE –December 11 th -12 th , 2021
- An international conference sponsored by a Dubai/UAE Educational Initiative
- Panelist, title: ‘Academic Ableism, Racism and Social Mobility Narratives’
UC Berkeley Leadership Academy Neurodiversity Workshop – October 28th, 2021
- Keynote Panelist, title: ‘Neurodivergence, Race and Educational Displacement’