History of Art


Jacob Badcock

PhD supervisor: Dr Hanna Hoelling and Dr Ramon Amaro
Working title for PhD: 'Critical Approaches to Electrical and Electronic Waste'

In view of recent antiracist movements, most notably Black Lives Matter and Rhodes Must Fall, much work has been done to decolonise cultural institutions and public monuments. However, more theoretical and practical work is required to consider the restitution of artefacts and materials beyond the institution. My research aims to fill this gap. It sets off to investigate practices of physical material reclamation in West Africa, with a focus on Ghana and Nigeria. I specifically take the problem of electronic waste (e-waste) disposal as a point of departure for studying the histories of racialised extractive violence which underpin the use of rare earth materials, such as copper and gold, in media objects. I also examine the emergence of e-waste mining labour – the practice of recovering valuable metals and metallics within e-waste – as a form of anti-colonial resistance interior to neo-colonial extraction economies. Crossing disciplinary boundaries and the established genres of media and materials, my project contributes to art historical and conservational knowledge in two ways. Firstly, it suggests the value of art history and conservation for constituting the unconstituted histories of antiblack extractive violence which ground contemporary media. It combines critical readings of scholars in contemporary and media archaeology to develop an antiracist ‘geology of media,’ which examines contemporary media ‘from the material realities that precede media themselves,’ such as geological formations, minerals and energy. Secondly, it contextualises existing toxicological literature on the biological and environmental impacts of e-waste disposal, enriching scientific knowledge of the problem of e-waste with a cultural and historical understanding of the racialised histories of rare-earth mineral extraction under corporate-colonialism.

The following research questions will guide my project: What can a close material analysis of e-waste tell us about colonial and neo-colonial histories of extractive violence? How can a close material analysis of e-waste help us to understand the processes of racialisation that are constitutive of contemporary media? 


  • Badcock, Jacob and Owusu-Nepaul, Jovan, ‘In the Wake of Colston: Wake Work After Woke Work,’ Cambridge Journal of Law, Politics and Art (CJLPA), no.1, pp.137-142

Conference papers and presentations 

  • Badcock, Jacob, Cannibalising Hegel: Sakawa as Decolonial Praxis, presented at Violence, Aesthetics, Anthropocenes: Racism, Colonialism, Extractivism, The London School of Economics (LSE), 31 March - 1 April 2020


  • The Slade School of Fine Art, ‘The Invention of African Art’ (BFA2) with Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa


  • London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP) Open Studentship Award