My research has focused on issues of cultural memory, heritage, material culture and migration, with a regional focus in West Africa. I have long been interested in the intersecting journeys of people, things, materials, narratives and knowledges, and the transformations these entities undergo as they move through time, space and different regimes of value. I also have a particular interest in the entangled histories of anthropology and colonialism, and my work has often involved re-engaging with colonial-era ethnographic archives and collections relating to West Africa, exploring their ambiguous status as both sites of epistemic violence and, potentially, resources for communities to recover cultural histories, memories and alternative ways of knowing and being in the world. There are many things that excite me in moving to Oxford: the prospect of joining the curatorial team at the Pitt Rivers Museum, of course, but also the possibility of engaging with other collections to consider how they might contribute to a more affirmative, future-oriented project of epistemic decolonisation.
Paul Basu is an anthropologist specialising in critical heritage, museum and material culture studies in transcultural contexts. He draws upon a wide range of ethnographic, historical and participatory methods to explore how pasts are differently materialized and mediated in the present, and how they shape futures. Paul's research examines the complex ways in which natural as well as cultural heritage is entangled in shifting regimes of value and geopolitical configurations. His work has often involved re-engagements with colonial archives and collections relating to West Africa, exploring their ambiguous status as both sites of epistemic violence and, potentially, resources for communities to recover cultural histories, memories and alternative ways of knowing and being in the world.
Before becoming an anthropologist, Paul trained and worked in film and television production, and he continues to use audio-visual as well as other multimodal and participatory approaches in his research. He has designed and curated numerous exhibitions and museum spaces.
Paul will be teaching on the Visual, Material, and Museum Anthropology (VMMA) Masters course and supervising doctoral students.