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Personal profile

Research interests

I am a social historian of modern Africa, with a particular focus on gender and women's history. My interests include African oral histories, race and ethnicity, histories of humanitarianism, welfarism and development, counter-insurgency warfare, colonial violence, British imperial history, histories of colonialism and subaltern methodologies.

My current research explores the relationship between colonial counter-insurgency tactics and international humanitarianism in the context of the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya, 1952-1960. It uses villagisation, a counter-insurgency measure enforced during the campaign to administer tighter control over the movement of civilians, as a site to interrogate the relationships between humanitarian organisations, the colonial administration and the displaced indigenous women and their children. The project analyses the supposedly reformative practices deployed by the British colonial government and external actors, like the British Red Cross Society, in response to women and girls suspected of supporting forest fighters. These practices publicly endorsed ideas of African women’s advancement and development. While the colonial government projected a reformative discourse for their approach to women and children, this research shows that this process was gendered and inherently violent in practice. Villagisation in this campaign operated as a tool to subdue a specific demographic of the Kenyan population suspected of fuelling anti-colonial action: women and girls. 

Alongside my academic research, I am a proud member of the Museum of British Colonialism's (MBC) organising committee. MBC is a joint UK/Kenya initiative founded to creatively communicate the history of British colonialism. MBC's mission, since January 2018, has been to restore and make visible the history of British Colonialism which has been suppressed, destroyed, or underrepresented for too long. Three years on, we have evolved into a mixed-race, mixed-nationality and mixed-profession group working to reimagine what it means to be a museum, and what it takes to detoxify museums as educational, cultural centres. 

I have had the immense privilege to have held fellowships at the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress and the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy at the Leibniz Institute of European History. I have also taught at the University of Reading, where I completed my PhD, and the University of Exeter.

Contact

Office: 13 Woodland Road, G57

Phone: tbc

Email: bethany.rebisz@bristol.ac.uk

Twitter: @BRebisz

Consultation hours

Mondays 15-16 

Tuesdays 11-12

Teaching

I teach across undergraduate courses on topics including the history of modern Africa, African women's and gender histories, race and resistance, revolutions, decolonisation, Pan-Africanism and public history.

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