Summer Scholars: Indigenous and Imperial Encounters

Haile Selassie and Acee Blue Eagle; courtesy of the Oklahoma State University Archives

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R. L. Stevenson in the Pacific, and an historic meeting between Haile Selassie and Acee Blue Eagle

The Eccles Centre’s Summer Scholars season of free in-person lunchtime talks explores the exciting and wide-ranging research into the Americas collections at the British Library by the Eccles Centre’s Fellows and Award winners. The talks take place in the British Library Entrance Hall bookshop and attendees are welcome to bring their lunch.

Robert Louis Stevenson and the Colonial 19th-Century Pacific

Scottish Victorian author Robert Louis Stevenson spent the final years of his life exploring the eastern and central Pacific. During this time, he increasingly presented himself as an authority on the Pacific Islands and Islanders to scientific communities and colonial policy makers in Britain.

Indeed, his presence in Oceania allowed him to act as a 'man on the ground' to armchair anthropologists in Europe, reporting back on indigenous Polynesian cultures and customs.

In this talk, Chloe Osborne considers the politics of Stevenson’s engagement with indigenous communities and explores some of the continuing legacies of his time in Polynesia and Micronesia.

The Material Performance of Indigenous-Imperial Diplomacy

Louise Siddons investigates the 1954 meeting between Acee Blue Eagle – a Muscogee Creek, Pawnee, and Wichita artist from Anadarko, Oklahoma – and Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia. Although conversations about the United States, the United Kingdom, and empire usually focus on those nations' exercises of imperial power, for both Blue Eagle and Selassie they became politically potent backdrops for their own sovereign and imperial goals.

This talk considers Blue Eagle's and Selassie’s manipulations of the material and performance cultures of Indigeneity and empire on those colonial stages, as filtered through their contemporaneous early experiences of US and European imperialism, as expressions of resistant sovereignty.

Chloe Osborne is a Doctoral researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her work examines the intersections between anthropological and literary representations of Oceania in the 19th and 20th centuries. She holds Visiting Fellowships at the Huntington Library, California, is a Founder of the London Nineteenth-Century Studies Graduate Strand, and editor of the History of Anthropology Review.

Louise Siddons is a Visiting Researcher at the University of Sussex Humanities Lab, and in September 2022 will take up her position as Professor of Visual Politics and Head of the Department of Art and Media Technology at the Winchester School of Art, Southampton University. Her research focuses on visual resistance to structures of marginalisation in modernity, and has covered topics from the 18th century to the present. Research for her forthcoming book about photographer Laura Gilpin and the intersection of lesbian and Navajo sovereignty politics at mid-century (University of Minnesota Press, 2023) has been supported by grants from Oklahoma State University, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the US-UK Fulbright Commission.

Image of Haile Selassie and Acee Blue Eagle; courtesy of the Oklahoma State University Archives.

This event is organised by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library. The Eccles Centre exists to support and promote creative research and lifelong learning about the Americas, through the world-class collections of the British Library.

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Name: Summer Scholars: Indigenous and Imperial Encounters
Where: Entrance Hall
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546