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Professor Paul Gilroy Appointed Founding Director of Centre for the Study of Race & Racism

21 May 2019

The Institute of Advanced Studies is delighted to announce that Professor Paul Gilroy has been appointed founding Director of UCL’s new Centre for the Study of Race and Racism.

Professor Paul Gilroy by Lola Paprocka

Paul will take up the position of Professor of the Humanities in August 2019 and will be responsible for establishing a vibrant new interdisciplinary research centre that harnesses scholarship from across UCL in the critical study of race as well as the history, theory and politics of racism and its effects. The Centre will be outward facing and aims to become a hub for radical scholarship and engaged thinking, drawing in scholars, activists, policy makers and students from across UCL’s faculties, from London, the UK and internationally. In addition to the Director, the Centre will be staffed initially by an administrator and two lecturers and will attract doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows as well as establishing a new MA programme for students interested in exploring processes of racialization, racialized experience and racism in global, trans-historical and multi/interdisciplinary ways.

Paul Gilroy is one of the foremost theorists of race and racism working and teaching in the world today. Author of foundational and highly influential books such as There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack (1987), The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993), Against Race (2000), Postcolonial Melancholia (2005) and Darker Than Blue (2010) alongside numerous key articles, essays and critical interventions, Gilroy’s is a unique voice that speaks to the centrality and tenacity of racialized thought and representational practices in the modern world. He has transformed thinking across disciplines, from Ethnic Studies, British and American Literature, African American Studies, Black British Studies, Trans-Atlantic History and Critical Race Theory to Post-Colonial theory. He has contributed to and shaped thinking on Afro-Modernity, aesthetic practices, diasporic poetics and practices, sound and image worlds.

Winner of the Holberg Prize (2019), which is given to a person who has made outstanding contributions to research in the arts, humanities, social science, the law or theology, Professor Gilroy was described by the awarding committee as ‘one of the most challenging and inventive figures in contemporary scholarship’. He has transformed the canon of political and cultural history, making us aware of how the African diaspora – spurred into motion, largely, by racial slavery – was an extra-national, socio-political and cultural phenomenon which challenged essentialist conceptions of country, community and identity, and what is more, was constitutive of modernity. Gilroy was one of the founding figures of a remapped global history that embedded the movement of racialized subjects and traded goods into accounts of the world as we know it. His work on racism in modern Britain has consistently countered romantic narratives of whiteness, Christianity and ethnic homogeneity as uniquely constitutive of these islands and has written the long history of Black Britons into the cultural and social fabric of Britishness. Using philosophy, sociology, musicology, literature, history and critical theory, he has breathed new life into the humanist tradition, extending it to include scholarly and political discourses on race and anti-racist polemic.

It is with enormous pride and excitement that we welcome Paul into the UCL academic community. We reach out to our friends and colleagues across London, Britain and further afield to join him in creating a unique intellectual and pedagogic community that can help us to address the dangers and threats that confront us in an ever bifurcated and divided world.

Photo credit: Lola Paprocka