Life as an AHP Fellow: we catch up with George Evans, Summer Fellow 2021

African History Project - Summer Fellowship - George


George joined the African History Project as a Summer Fellow in the Department of African History in July 2021.

George is originally from North Wales and is currently a final year undergraduate History student at Durham University. 

His research focuses on the political implications of metaphysical religious ideas of salvation and the figure of the Black Christ in South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle, as well as the syncretism of African forms of Christianity across the continent and in her diaspora. He is also working on projects seeking to understand the concept of minorities in post-colonial African states and the legacies of imperialism in South Asian and East African relations. 

We reached out to him to find out about his Fellowship at the Project so far.

AHP: How would you describe your experience at the African History Project so far?

George: Intense but exhilarating! The past few weeks have definitely involved a lot of hard work but I have enjoyed every second of it and grown exponentially. 

AHP: Would you say the study of African History matters? If so, why?

George: I think that the study of African History demands greater acknowledgment from the academy than it is currently afforded. Though often viewed as a sub-study and marginalised as such, my time studying African history during my degree and my time at the Project has taught me what it means to be human, how struggle and success are dealt with and the importance of one’s community. Approaching research as a non-African, I was first attracted to the study of African history through realising that what I knew of the continent was coded by the systematic white saviourism shown on my television. As Achille Mbembe has explored, Africa is commonly displayed as a land of nothingness in Western media and academia, and I have found that studying African history is the perfect way to challenge this. 

AHP: Why did you want to do this Fellowship and why did you choose the African History Project? 

George: I first came across the African History Project when studying East African socio-political history during my second year of university. I found a link to the African Historiography short course during my research and began exploring the website and acquainting myself with the Project’s decolonial and Afro-centric approach to knowledge. I actually reached out to Stephanie and Apeike before the Fellowship was even announced asking if I could get involved! When I found out that the Fellowship was open to current undergraduate students I jumped at the chance to work here. As an aspiring academic, I have found it hard to get my foot in the door as it were. Coming from a small state school in North Wales, a career in higher education had always seemed an unattainable goal to me. However, being offered an opportunity like this has given me the tools to grow into a world class academic within a world class institution. 

Philosopher and Political Theorist Achille Mbembe

AHP: Are there highlights in your time here that you would like to share?

George: I have really enjoyed working with the rest of the team here at the Project. From meetings and research updates to general chatting, getting to know my colleagues and hearing about their diverse interests and lives has allowed me to grow into a new mindset as I enter the next stage of my life and academic journey. 

AHP: Is there any particular accomplishment at the Project yet that makes you proud?

George: I am honoured to be working on the upcoming thought leadership white paper exploring Pan-African Citizenship Education. Ensuring that African voices are given space in global citizenship theory is of vital importance to decolonising globalisation theories and policies, and I am incredibly proud to be part of a team pushing the promotion of Pan-African ideas forward as a solution.  

AHP: Can you share with us what you are currently working on?

George: As well as the Pan-African white paper and general administrative tasks, I am currently working on the ‘Introduction to African Religion’ course within the Department of Black Political Thought and Culture. Exploring African modes of religiosity centred on theological and socio-political analyses of Yoruba Ifa and Haitian Vodou, I have been creating lectures, reading lists and knowledge questions to lead students in their journey of discovery. Similarly, within the Department of Education I have been working on the ‘Teaching Black History as British History’ course. The course equips secondary school teachers with effective ways to insert Black figures into the national curriculum’s existing British historical narratives from the sixteenth century onwards. In line with a much-needed growth in awareness that education is the key to promoting anti-racist inclusivity, this course and its parallel exploring global histories gives me great hope for the future. Lastly, I am completing a research project exploring the political elements of soteriology in South African Black theology, centred on anti-apartheid activism. As well as being released as a research paper, this piece will also feed into the creation of a course centred on Black theologies and religion in revolution at the Project which I am really excited for!

Kimpa Vita, Prophetess of the Kingdom of Kongo

AHP: What are your long-term career goals and how does the Fellowship feed into this?

George: To be perfectly honest, I have hundreds of long-term career goals! After a great two years at Durham University, I will be applying to postgraduate courses in the autumn and going on to a doctorate from there. I then hope to pursue careers in academia, public intellectualism, refugee aid and assistance, human rights and conflict resolution advisory work. The Fellowship, most particularly the connections it has helped me build and ideas it has helped me cultivate, has no doubt fuelled my passion for and commitment to becoming Dr George Evans. 

AHP: Which historical figure would you most like to meet and why?

George: As much as Frantz Fanon and St Paul are great contenders, I would have to pick Kimpa Vita. A prophetess of the Kingdom of Kongo in the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century and eventually burned at the stake for her revolutionary ideas. In the early stages of European missionary activity and colonialism in Africa Kimpa Vita prophesied that Jesus was a Black Man. A fascinating force of nascent anti-colonialism and liberation theology yet woefully understudied, I would love to find out more about her ideas and motivations by having a real conversation with her, but the archives will have to suffice! 

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