Conference Details


The Provisional Programme has been released! Please download it to keep update with Provisional Programme.

The conference organisers are delighted that Lola Olufemi, (Women's Officer for Cambridge University Students' Union) and Madani Younis, (Artistic Director of The Bush Theatre) are joining the specialist panels, 'Pedagogy and Decolonising the Curriculum' and 'Poetics and Performance'.


Call for papers

We invite proposals across a broad spectrum of areas: drama, poetry, prose, performance, film, visual arts, music, curating, publishing, arts management and history. Areas of discussion might connect with the following ideas:

(i) Sites and Sights - The Digital Medium

In the past decade, digital media have given rise to new creative strategies and produced an array of sites and sights that enable interactive aesthetic practices. As digitization made possible various forms of participatory intervention, it has also reinforced socio-political barriers and cultural boundaries in the public sphere. Which role does the digital medium play in the production, circulation and consumption of Black British literature and the arts, and which new sites and sights of creative interaction does it open up?

(ii) Decolonising the Curricula

As the consequences of Britain’s colonial legacy continues to contour and influence contemporary British culture, challenges to the traditional verities of educational and public institutions have gathered apace. Campaigns such as ‘Why isn’t my professor black?’ and ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ have foregrounded the momentum for change. Neo-millennial generations demand a wider and more inclusive curriculum, and diversification of the teaching demographic. How is the tradition of the white interpreter problematised in, and by, Black British writing? What pedagogies and curricula exert a decolonising dynamic?

(iii) Historicising the Field

Imtiaz Habib (2008) has reflected, ‘to collect scattered, fragmented, and historically disregarded records of black people from four centuries back, and to talk about them with authority and coherence consistently, is a daunting task.’ The genre of historical fiction has taken a new turn in Black British writing and film-making over the past decade, alongside the visibilities created in the historical retrievals in Britain’s national archives and broadcasting. How does the model of ‘re-memory’ and the ‘imaginary’ of literary genres engage with history and heritage in a British context?

(iv) Economies of Cultural Visibility: the ‘Value’ of Black British Literature

Cultural visibility and authority in the public sphere fundamentally rely on the attribution of value. Value, however, is a fraught term that involves creative quality as much as it does economic interests. While Black British literature and the arts are certainly not independent from the logic of the market, they also find ways to assert their difference from it. Wherein lies the value of Black British literature and the arts and on whose terms is value attributed in the ‘global alterity industries’ (Huggan 2001)?

(v) New Subjectivities: Mixedness, Post-humanism and Afro-futures

At a time when the western humanist project has come under considerable pressure, Black British literature and the arts offer a vibrant arena for critically engaging with concepts of the human, life and subjectivity. How do creative and critical writers present new, possible post-human conceptions of black subjectivity? How do the arts and its possibilities for imaginative self-fashioning, radically reconfigure understandings of mixed and multi-ethnic experiences? Which creative strategies redraw the boundaries between human and the non-human agents, and how does this post-human project affect the modelling of Afro-futures and new, non-Eurocentric temporalities?

(vi) Sexual Textual Practices

The meta-context of hetero-normativity and hegemonic whiteness has been challenged both creatively and critically through the increasing body of work representing black LGBTQI+ experiences in British culture. What continuities can be mapped when we consider work produced ‘within a history of exclusion and non-white racialization…both within and outside canonical genealogies.’(Ferguson, 2004)? How do we evaluate an aesthetic legacy of Black British LGBTQI+ perspectives – whether or not these are centralised in individual texts, or are by people who might not personally identify as such? To what degree is textual experimentation a means of reclaiming perspectives previously submerged in culture (and historically persecuted)?

(vii) Holding Environments: Publishing, Archiving, Revivals

Bearing in mind Hall’s factors of ‘innovation and constraint’ (1996) that surround cultural genesis and production, across the interactive British arts sector (in literature, film, television, theatre, museums, and publishing), black writers and performers in Britain can still find their lives and experiences— if represented at all— primarily filtered through the dominance of white editors, publishers, directors, screenwriters, programmers, commissioning agents, reviewers and pundits. Has Black British heritage now become a permanent feature of public spaces and cultural records? Are there revivals of work? What are the classics? How can the legacies of activist artists, black presses and cultural networks be maintained?



• Performance and readings by John Agard, Grace, Nicholls, Fred D'Aguiar, SuAndi, Jay Bernard, Kei Miller, Courttia Newland, Valerie Mason-John.

Invited Specialist Panellists

Pedagogy and Decolonising the Curricula

Joan Anim-Addo, Nathaniel Adam Tobias, Malachi McIntosh, Maria Helena Lima

Archiving and Longevity

Sandra Shakespeare and S.I. Martin (National Archives of Great Britain), Munira Mohamed (Black Cultural Archives), Sarah White (George Padmore Institute)

Publishing and Prizes

Susheila Nasta - Wasafiri,
Kadija (George) Sesay - SABLE,
Margaret Busby - S.I. Leeds Prize,
Pauline Walker - Alfred Fagon Award.

Poetics and Performance

Winsome Pinnock, Dorothea Smartt, Roy Williams.


Ronnie McGrath is a Black contemporary artist, poet and novelist. As part of the On Whose Terms? Black British Literature & the Arts conference, his poems and paintings will be exhibited in the Kingsway Corridor, Goldsmiths University 16th-24th March 2018. Original paintings, assemblage works and limited edition Giclee prints of the works on show (various sizes) are for sale. Please contact Ronnie McGrath by email for price list. Email Ronnie at ronsurreal(

  1. A Joyful Noise, Acrylic on canvas board. Original painting 71X51cm framed.

  2. Some Flowers Are More Sensible Than Others, Giclee print 69X67cm framed.

  3. Little Wing, Giclee print 69X67 framed.

  4. Painted Turtle, Woman with Guitar, acrylic and ink on canvas board. Original painting 49X67cm framed.

  5. Kundalini in Blue Face, acrylic on canvas board. Original painting and various size Giclee prints 56X80cm framed.

  6. Kundalini in Yellow Face, acrylic on canvas board. Original painting and various size Giclee prints 56X80cm framed.

  7. Wadjet, acrylic on canvas board. Original painting 56X80cm framed and various size Giclee prints.

  8. Garden, acrylic paint, ink and cloth on canvas board. Original painting 56X80cm framed.

  9. In Balance, acrylic paint on canvas board. Original painting 56X80cm framed and various size Giclee prints.

  10. A Moment to Myself, acrylic on canvas board. Original painting 56X80cm framed and various size Giclee prints.

  11. Miro in Black, acrylic on canvas board. Original painting 56X80cm framed.

  12. Black Moon in a Dub Plate Style, acrylic paint, ink on canvas board. Original painting 80X55cm framed.

  13. Nut, Giclee print 85X60cm framed.

  14. Blue Silhouettes Shaping out the Sky like an Ankh, Acrylic paint, combs, cowrie shells and ink on canvas board. Original painting 79X69cm framed.

  15. Ankh Up, acrylic paint, plaster and wall paper on canvas board. Original painting 51X69cm framed.

  16. Panther, acrylic paint and ink on canvas board. Original painting 51X69cm framed.

  17. Khepra Ascending, acrylic paint and ink on wood. Original painting 46X54cm.

  18. Hendrix is God, assemblage work. Original 50X90cm wood and guitar string and neck.

  19. The Pharaoh’s Nose, acrylic paint, ink, cowrie shells and artist resin. Original painting 60X72 on wood.

  1. Judgement, acrylic paint and oil pastel on canvas paper. Original painting 50X38cm framed.

  2. Sekhmet, Black Cat with Ankh. Assemblage work – 3D altar. Candles, shells, cigar, dice, playing card, cat carving, marble ankh, skull, feathers and cowrie shells.

  3. Urban Primitive, Head sculptor – 3D. Original work.

  4. The End of A Primitive, Wooden sculpture with beads and feathers – 3D.

  5. Angel, wood, plastic and crystals – 3D.

  6. The Spasmodic Coil Of Our Ancestral Tongues, framed poem with art card 56X80cm.

  7. Langton’s Hue, framed poem with art card 56X80cm.

  8. Perforated Skin Pores, framed poem 56X80cm.

  9. Blk British Brother, framed poem 56X80cm.

  10. Flatline, framed poem 56X80cm.

Participating Organisations

  • National Black Arts Alliance                         
  • Pearson Publishing                   
  • Words of Colour                      
  • Runnymede Trust
  • Arvon
  • Oberon Books
  • Peepal Tree Press 
  • Norwich Writers’ Centre 
  • New Beacon Books

Confirmed Keynotes

Carole Boyce-Davies

Carole Boyce-Davies is a Caribbean-American professor, author, and scholar who is currently professor of Africana Studies and English at Cornell University. She is the recipient of two major awards in 2017:  The  Franz Fanon Lifetime Achievement Award from the Caribbean Philosophical Association and the Distinguished Africanist Award from the New York State African Studies Association. She has held distinguished professorships at a number of Universities and is the author or editor of thirteen (13) books including the 3-volume Encyclopedia of the African Diaspora  She serves on the International Scientific Committee of UNESCO General History of Africa, Volume 9. She has lectured on Black Women’s Writings and Experience, Black Left Feminism, African diaspora issues, at major colleges and universities in Brazil, Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, India, and China. She has held visiting professorships at University of Brasilia, Brasil,  Beijing Foreign Studies University, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.  As Director of African New World Studies at Florida International University, she developed Florida Africana Studies Consortium and served on the Commissioner of Education’s Task Force for Implementing the Florida Mandate for the Teaching of African American experience.  She has been president of major academic organizations such as the African Literature Association and Caribbean Studies Association (2015-2016).  

Title: 'Decolonial Gaps'


Carole Boyce Davies

Aime Cesaire had once said that Nazism was a natural outcome of European philosophy of racial categorization and its assumptions about colonizing the so-called lesser races.  But he also warned about “The modern barbarian. The American hour."  Much of this has been clarified by the recent assertion of Trumpism and its clarification of these interconnected colonial relationships.  Annibal Quijano in the "Coloniality of Power" (2000) had indicated the nature of this collaboration as had Sylvia Wynter in "Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom:  Towards the Human,  after Man, Its Overrepresentation -- an Argument," (2003). This keynote lecture addresses the theme of the conference,  On Whose Terms, by examining the decolonial gaps which remained hidden in post-colonial discourses, particularly as these relate to the US in this new era.

Charlotte Williams

Charlotte Williams is Professor of Social Work and Deputy Dean of the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. She has written extensively within her academic discipline on issues of migration, race and ethnicity in social welfare practice.  Her most recent works include Social Work and the City: Urban Themes in 21st Century Social Work (2016) (Ed.), Social Work in a Diverse Society (2016), A Tolerant Nation? : Revisiting Ethnic Diversity in a Devolved Wales (2003, 2015). ).  Her contributions to post-colonial studies include her memoir, Sugar and Slate (2002), exploring her Welsh-Guyanese heritage and diasporic identity which was awarded Welsh Book of the Year in 2003, as co-editor Denis Williams: A Life in Works, New and Collected Essays (2010), regular contributions to the Internationalist Journals Planet, and Wasafiri  and in 2015 she published ‘Auntie’ in the collection Tangled Roots :Stories of Mixed Race Britain, edited by Katie Massey.

Charlotte was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List (2007) for services to ethnic minorities and equal opportunities in Wales.

Title: ‘Spaces of possibility’: Beyond the metropolis


Charlotte Williams OBE

What type of critical intervention can perspectives from ‘elsewhere’ places and spaces in the UK offer to the story of the development of Black British literature? How might spaces beyond the metropolis feature in the canon of Black British Literature?   In tracking the evolution of Black British literature commentators are slowly acknowledging ‘other voices’ and narrative projections articulating experiences that challenge monolithic ideas about Britishness and assert their significance as expressions of the multifaceted identities. Drawing on work from my ‘home’ country Wales, I am going to argue for more space and valorisation of what these perspectives bring to the story – in their own terms – more specifically in terms of being ‘of the place’ and yet ‘out of place’.  In taking this (for me) transdisciplinary leap I will use this small body of work from Wales and show how it speaks to a wider literature sometimes called ‘mixed-race’ literature, opening out both the “Black” and the “British” of the Black British Literature imaginary.

Fred D’Aguiar

Fred D’Aguiar is Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to UCLA, he has taught at a number of prestigious institutes including the University of Miami, Virginia Tech, Cambridge University, Amherst College, and Bates College. His first collection of poetry, Mama Dot (1985), was published to much acclaim and has been followed by a further seven collections - Airy Hall (1989), British Subjects (1993), Bill of Rights (1998), Bloodlines (2000), An English Sampler (2001), Continental Shelf (2009), and his most recent poetry collection, The Rose of Toulouse(2013) - establishing his reputation as one of the finest British poets of his generation. D’Aguiar is also the author of several novels. His first novel, The Longest Memory (1994), won both the David Higham Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread First Novel Award. His other novels include Dear Future (1996), Feeding the Ghosts (1996), Bethany Bettany (2003), and most recently, Children of Paradise (2014), which tells the story of a utopian society and explores oppression of both mind and body. In addition to this, D’Aguiar has authored a number of plays, including High Life (1987), A Jamaican Airman Foresee His Death (1991), and a radio play, Mr Reasonable, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2015.

Title: 'The Indigenous Imaginary in Caribbean Literature'


Fred D’Aguiar

The absence of the presence of indigenous peoples in contemporary Caribbean literature poses a number of questions. Why have writers largely ignored an indigenous past and present? Where is the indigenous imaginary these days? Who are the writers who have thought about indigenous peoples in the region? How can this thinking help in the fight for a Caribbean beleaguered with ecological, economic, political, race, gender and health problems?

I delve into Wilson Harris, Roy A.K. Heath, Pauline Melville, John Agard and Grace Nichols and sample Lorna Goodison, Olive Senior, Kamau Brathwaite and Derek Walcott. I ask if the continental location of Guyana predisposes its writers to be aware of an indigenous past because of an indigenous present. What is to be done about the absence of the autochthonous if an imaginary that includes it may hold possible solutions for some of the region’s problems? Are there wider applications for indigeneity, such as the transnational, diasporic, transgendered?

Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay was born and brought up in Scotland. The Adoption Papers (Bloodaxe) won the Forward Prize, a Saltire prize, and a Scottish Arts Council Prize. Fiere, her most recent collection of poems was shortlisted for the Costa award. Her novel Trumpet won the Guardian Fiction Award and was shortlisted for the IMPAC award. Red Dust Road (Picador) won the Scottish Book of the Year Award and the London Book Award. It was shortlisted for the JR Ackerley prize. She was awarded an MBE in 2006 and made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002. Her book of stories Wish I Was Here won the Decibel British Book Award. She also writes for children and her book Red Cherry Red (Bloomsbury) won the Clype award. She has written extensively for stage and television. Her most recent plays Manchester Lines (produced by Manchester Library Theatre) and The New Maw Broon Monologues (produced by Glasgay) were a great success. Her most recent book is a collection of stories, Reality, Reality. She is currently working on her new novel, Bystander. She is Chancellor of the University of Salford and Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University. Jackie Kay was named Scots Makar—the National Poet for Scotland—in March 2016.

John McLeod

John McLeod is Professor of Postcolonial and Diaspora Literatures at Leeds University. In 2009 he was the Visiting Research Fellow at the Research Institute for History and Culture at the University of Utrecht, and in 2014 was a Transatlantic Forum Scholar at Washington University in St Louis, USA. His most recent publication, Life Lines: Writing Transcultural Adoption (2015), explores fiction, film, and memoir writing concerning the adoption of children across the lines of culture, race, and nation. It addresses the transgressive and transformative possibilities of transcultural adoption, presented in the concept of ‘adoptive being’. He is the author of Postcolonial London: Rewriting the Metropolis (2004), J.G Farrell (2007), and Beginning Postcolonialism (2000). McLeod is the co-editor of The 1970s: A Decade of Contemporary British Fiction (2014), The Routledge Companion to Postcolonial Studies (2007), and The Revisions of Englishness (2004). In addition to this, he is also on the editorial boards of a number of journals in postcolonial studies - Moving Worlds, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, New Literatures Review, Journal of Commonwealth Literature - and has guest-edited two issues of Kunapipi. McLeod was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to support research concerning migration and mobility amid the prohibitions of 21st-century globality, with a particular focus on transcultural adoptees, elite sporting figures and documented migrants in world cities.

Title: 'Black British Writers and Transracial Adoption'


John McLeod

The phenomenon of so-called transracial adoption is a distinct material consequence of the emergence of post-war and contemporary black Britain, but one rarely considered in cultural texts until relatively recently.  My keynote address engages with a range of these texts in order to explore the ways in which representing  transracial adoption raises a range of vexing questions, including such matters as the materialisation and entrenchment of race, the racial politics of adaptability, biocentric notions of cultural provenance and ‘blood-lines’, conceptions of generational and cultural reproduction, and more besides.  As I argue, black British representations of transracial adoption have the capacity both to capture an ongoing domain of racial inequality and to imagine incipient modes of personhood and being which breach the conventional parameters of race, culture and ‘identity’”.