Since the early sixteenth century, Indigenous people from North America have been travelling to Britain. They came as captives and critics, poets and performers, athletes and diplomats, and these journeys have continued into the twenty-first century. Unfortunately, few UK residents have heard of this long history.
‘Beyond the Spectacle’ is an Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded project that brings together an international team of researchers and Native North American people to amplify the stories of Indigenous travellers in the historical record and in the current moment. Some of this work is based on deep archival research in places such as the British Library, while other aspects of the project focus on working with present-day Native American visitors to and residents of Britain to share the experience of being Indigenous in the UK.
And when we say “beyond the spectacle,” what do we mean, exactly? First, “beyond” suggests that Indigenous travellers to Britain almost always had their own reasons for making the journey, separate from Britons’ desires for novelty or the exotic. Even when they used spectacle to gain visibility, it was often secondary to other objectives. Second, the notion of “beyond” also insists that Native North Americans in Britain could have private moments where they were not the target of the British gaze – whether as delegates or tourists, activists or enlisted men, Indigenous visitors to the UK had experiences that were not solely about being the objects of others’ attention–and, indeed, many Native travellers have visited Britain entirely free of spectacle at all. As a project, ‘Beyond the Spectacle’ is committed to asserting these sorts of spaces in the stories we collect and share.
Beyond our research agenda, ‘Beyond the Spectacle’ funds residencies for Indigenous artists from North America to create new works while in the UK, organises public symposia, and supports the process of connecting Indigenous communities with archival material and cultural belongings held in institutions such as the National Archives and the British Museum.
We invite you to explore our website, where you will find a wide range of information about ‘Beyond the Spectacle’s research agenda and public programs. Most importantly, though, you will find maps, images, and stories about the uninterrupted history of Native North American travel to Britain.
If you’d like to know more, watch the video below to hear our Principal Investigator, Professor David Stirrup, talk about the project:
Keep up to date with Beyond the Spectacle by checking our Events page, following us on Twitter and Facebook, and by visiting our blog.
Please direct any queries to our general email address – firstname.lastname@example.org
(Our banner image depicts the Warriors of AniKituhwa (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) retracing the steps of The Beatles at Abbey Road, London – January 2019. Inspired by ‘London Calling 1762’, by America Meredith. Image by Professional Images, courtesy of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Read more about the 2019 Cherokee visit here)