Beyond the Spectacle: Native North American Presence in Britain is a three year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), based at both the University of Kent and the University of East Anglia. The project will be conducted by an interdisciplinary team with a global reach, led by Professor David Stirrup in the School of English at the University of Kent and Professor Jacqueline Fear-Segal in the School of Art, Media, and American Studies at UEA, and also comprising an International Co-Investigator, Professor Coll Thrush, at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and two Research Associates, Dr. Kate Rennard and Dr. Jack Davy, at Kent and UEA respectively.

The main aim of the project is to generate an up-to-date picture of all forms of Native North American travel across the Atlantic, whether it resulted in return trips, onward movement into Europe, or even long-term residence in Britain. The project has an ambitious timeframe, covering the past five centuries, but its particular focus is on the last century and a half up to the present day, a period which has not fully been examined in any depth. In addition, the project will move away from the traditional focus on metropolitan centres, such as London, to examine how Native visitors travelled throughout Britain and established mutual relationships, economic exchanges, and cultural connections across the whole country.

Our objective is to look ‘beyond the spectacle’ in order to provide a more diverse and complete account of these fascinating interactions that includes Indigenous views. We aim to transform existing understandings of Native North American presence in Britain, offering fresh perspectives on a range of relevant issues such as colonialism, Indigenous identities, globalisation and the nature of ‘belonging’.

This project is innovative in its research methods and its approach to dissemination and impact. The research team will draw upon a diverse range of source material, much of it never previously examined. This will include archival holdings, museum collections, oral histories and, through a dynamic crowdsourcing campaign, stories and material objects retained by private individuals or by descendant communities of those Native North Americans who travelled to Britain or who made their home here. We welcome contributions and information from members of the public.

This material will be interpreted in a multitude of exciting and thought-provoking ways. For example, alongside original scholarly analysis, four artists’ residencies will allow visiting Native artists (working in visual, performative, and musical media) to showcase representations of their own engagement with the material. In addition, digital mapping will allow the project to build a ground-breaking interactive map of the journeys made by Native travellers, which will create a powerful visual representation of these transatlantic networks.

Beyond the Spectacle will provide useful resources for other scholars, and the project will also actively share its findings with a wider audience through public engagement activities; these will include public workshops, educational resources for school students, creative partnerships with local art groups across Britain, and open discourse with Native communities in the USA and Canada. The project is an ambitious and exciting multi-disciplinary endeavour that will rigorously re-examine the presence of Native North Americans in Britain throughout history and will generate major impacts both within and beyond academia.