Institute of Archaeology


Paul Basu - Honorary Visiting Professor

Paul Basu
  • MSc, PhD
  • Honorary Visiting Professor
  • Member of Council and Chair of Education Commitee, Royal Anthropological Institute
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Material Culture, World Art
  • Series Editor, Routledge Studies in Culture and Development

Research Interests

  • Anthropological perspectives on cultural heritage and memory
  • Anthropology and archaeology of landscape
  • Spatial history, spatial practice, 'sites of memory'
  • Museum anthropology, history of ethnographic collecting and display
  • Exhibition practice, visual anthropology, multimedia installation
  • Museums and development, cultural heritage and civil society strengthening
  • Colonial and postcolonial heritage ideology and legislation
  • Material culture and migration, homelands and the diasporic imagination
  • Regional expertise: West Africa (especially Sierra Leone), Scotland and the Scottish diaspora

Current & Recent Projects

  • Lead Consultant, Review of Heritage Legislation in Sierra Leone, Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs & Monuments and Relics Commission, Sierra Leone. 
  • Leverhulme Research Fellow, 2014-15 - 'Reassembling N.W. Thomas's Anthropological Mission to Sierra Leone, 1914-15'
  • British Academy Mid-Career Fellow, 2013-14 - 'Archives, Histories, Landscapes: Surveying Sierra Leone's Cultural Memoryscape'.
  • Co-Investigator, EC-funded collaborative I-Treasures project.
  • Co-Investigator, AHRC-funded 'Utopian Archives: Excavating Pasts for Postcolonial Futures' Research Network.
  • Core participant, AHRC-funded 'Museum Ethics' Research Network.
  • Curator, Sowei mask: spirit of Sierra Leone - Asahi Shimbun Objects in Focus display at the British Museum. Collaboration with the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. Exhibition and associated events programme, 2013.
  • Palimpsest Memoryscapes - a book project exploring the multiple 'regimes of memory' that coexist in the Sierra Leonean cultural landscape.
  • Critical Conversations in Culture and Development workshop series - collaboration with the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam (the first workshop, Museums, Heritage and International Development, took place at the Tropenmuseum in 2011).
  • Reanimating Cultural Heritage: digital repatriation, knowledge networks and civil society strengthening in post-conflict Sierra Leone - 3 year project funded under the AHRC's Beyond Text programme. Partners include the British Museum, British Library Sound Archive, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Glasgow Museums, World Museum Liverpool, the National Museum of Sierra Leone, and University of Sussex Informatics Department. A major output of the project is the digital heritage resource www.sierraleoneheritage.org.
  • British Museum Africa Programme - lead consultant on capacity building at Sierra Leone National Museum since 2007.
  • Object Diasporas, Resourcing Communities - British Academy funded survey of Sierra Leonean collections in the global museumscape.
  • Heritage Laws, Colonial Legacies - comparative history and study of heritage legislation in British Commonwealth states.
  • Discovering Anthropology through Museum Collections - museum learning resource, partners include Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, C-SAP, the Royal Anthropological Institute, and University of Sussex Anthropology Department.

Selected recent publications

  • Basu, P. (ed.) (2016) The Inbetweenness of Things. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Basu, P. and F. de Jong (eds) Utopian Archives, Decolonial Affordances, special issue of Social Anthropology 24 (1).
  • Basu, P. (2016) N. W. Thomas and Colonial Anthropology in British West Africa. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 22(1).
  • Basu, P. and V. Damodaran (2015) Colonial Histories of Heritage: Legislative Migrations and the Politics of Preservation. Past and Present 226: 240-271.
  • Basu, P. and W. Modest (eds) (2015) Museums, Heritage and International Development. New York: Routledge.
  • Basu, P. (2015) Reanimating Cultural Heritage: Digital Curatorship, Knowledge Networks and Social Transformation in Sierra Leone. In A. E. Coombes and R. B. Phillips (eds), International Handbook of Museum Studies, Volume IV: Museum Transformations. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Basu, P. (2013) Recasting the National Narrative: Postcolonial Pastiche and the New Sierra Leone Peace and Cultural Monument. African Arts 46(3): 10-25.
  • Basu, P. (2013) Material Culture: Ancestries and Trajectories in Material Culture Studies. In J. G. Carrier and D. B. Gewertz (eds), Handbook of Sociocultural Anthropology. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Basu, P. (2013) Memoryscapes and Multi-sited Methods: Researching Cultural Memory in Sierra Leone. In E. Keightley and M. Pickering (eds), Research Methods for Memory Studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Macdonald, S. and P. Basu (eds) (2007) Exhibition Experiments. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Basu, P. (2007) Highland Homecomings: Genealogy and Heritage-Tourism in the Scottish Diaspora. London: Routledge.

Details of all publications are available via Paul's SOAS profile»