Studentship for Development in Postcolonial West Africa: Building the Nation

The University of Liverpool and The National Archives are pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded collaborative doctoral studentship, under the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) scheme.

Using The National Archives extensive collections the project will investigate how the West African ‘built environment’ has been shaped to respond to various political, economic, and welfare demands and ambitions. The particular timeframe will cover the transition from colonial rule into independence period. After tracking these broader notions across ‘British West Africa’, the project will pursue a narrower focus on one of the four former British colonies.

How were ideas of ‘self’, identity, freedom, and so on, expressed through new construction and town planning? How did former colonisers, and other foreign groups attempt to shape and influence these developments in the ‘post-colonial’ period. How were notions of identity, nation, and ‘new beginnings’ expressed by the postcolonial nations?

The aim of the project is to investigate how political ideas, and notions surrounding identity, nationhood, and statecraft are expressed or manifest through the built environment.

Infrastructure, prestige projects, and grand architectural schemes are often used to infer power, or suggest modernity, development, and progress. Equally, more (seemingly) mundane developments, such as housing, can be as revealing in terms of power structures and wider ambition. In a problematic and contested political situation these types of projects become highly charged and significant expressions of a nation’s collective (and often contested) identity. This is even more meaningful in a colonial context, and architecture, town planning and infrastructure, in part, become symbolic expressions of the colonial power. 

The objective of this project is to examine these notions within the West African context over a period of time that spans the late colonial era and early post-colonial period. This was a particularly volatile moment, charged with excitement and optimism, and a desire to somehow ‘start again’ and rebuild a new nation with a new vision. Architecture and planning would shift from being expressions of colonial dominance and subjugation to being expressions of nationalism, hope, and modernisation. 

It is sometimes tempting to see the event of Independence as an abrupt and sudden moment. The clock strikes twelve and everything suddenly changes – and whilst this is true, it is also oversimplifying a complex event that is, to some degree, still being played-out today. There is also a sense of inertia in the built environment and existing city plans, methods of development, and networks of expertise stubbornly persist and outlast political dynasties.

The desire for the newly independent nations to express their hard-fought freedom through physical, often large-scale triumphant (sometimes infrastructure) projects was met with the former colonial power’s aspiration to continue offering technical assistance, expertise, and trade. It resulted in a complex blend of nationalism, reimagining/reinventing identity and Pan-African ambition, further mixed with the additional influences of ‘non-aligned’ socialist assistance and US, World Bank, and UN concerns. 

The independence of these nations was not an abrupt severance from the former colonial power, but a feathered, gradual transition coupled with intense global interest eager to retain or cultivate influence and trade advantage. 

It makes for a fascinating narrative that reveals the shift from overt imperialism, to one of post-WW2 ‘technical assistance’, ‘development’, and fiscal packages from an array of competing agencies and organisations, met with a desire to express African modernisation, liberation, and success. 

Start date 1st October 2021

Applications due 25th May 2021

Interviews planned for 22nd June 2021

For any enquiries please contact: Professor Iain Jackson on: ijackson@liv.ac.uk

To apply for this studentship, please send the following documents to artsrecruit@liverpool.ac.uk:

 Full Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Cover Letter expressing motivation for applying and pursuing a PhD on this topic.

Project Plan: This is your chance to set out how you would like to design and plan the research project and should not exceed 1000 words. Please produce a Project Plan that includes the following headings:

  • Proposed project outline and suggested research questions
  • Proposed Methodology
  • The National Archives / other archival sources to be consulted
  • Selected Bibliography.

The project can be undertaken on a full-time or part-time basis.

CDP doctoral training grants fund full-time studentships for 45 months (3.75 years) or part-time equivalent. The studentship has the possibility of being extended for an additional 3 months to provide professional development opportunities, or up to 3 months of funding may be used to pay for the costs the student might incur in taking up professional development opportunities.    

The student is eligible to claim additional travel and research related expenses (worth up to £1000 per year for four years) during the course of the project, courtesy of The National Archives.

·      We want to encourage the widest range of potential students to study for a CDP studentship and are committed to welcoming students from different backgrounds to apply. We particularly welcome applications from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic backgrounds as they are currently underrepresented at this level in this area. 

·      Applicants should have an undergraduate degree in subjects allied to the Built Environment/Architecture/History/Cultural Geography.

·      A Masters level qualification is desirable but not essential. Applicants may be able to demonstrate equivalent experience in a professional setting (e.g. producing and researching written reports, public outreach and liason, working with collections and archives).

·      Experience of working in West Africa is desirable but not essential.

·      Applicants must be able to demonstrate an interest in the archives sector and potential and enthusiasm for developing skills more widely in related areas.

·      As a collaborative award, students will be expected to spend time at both the University and The National Archives.

·      All applicants must meet the UKRI terms and conditions for funding

Availability

Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

This is a joint project with AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership programme. The external partner is the National Archive, Kew. See View Website
The award pays full maintenance for all students, both home and international students. The National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for 2021/22 is £15,609, plus an allowance of £1000 per year and a CDP maintenance payment of £550 per year.

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