Welcome to Ancient History, Contemporary Belonging

Ancient History, Contemporary Belonging is a UKRI–funded project (2021–2023) based at the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies and led by Drs Jennifer Cromwell and Caitlin Nunn. The project is a creative exploration of forced migration of ancient historical objects with refugee-background young people.

The forced migration of people and objects—from the ancient world to the present day—is a critical aspect of national and transnational histories, but one that is frequently narrated through colonial—and colonising—discourses that reify difference while silencing diverse perspectives. Ancient History, Contemporary Belongingaddresses this challenge by engaging refugee-background youth citizen scientists to generate innovative new biographies of ancient historical objects from their regions of origin, now housed in UK collections. Combining archival research with a participatory arts-based research approach that engages with citizen scientists’ affective, embodied experiences, this project aims to produce new understandings about the forced migration of both contemporary young people and ancient historical objects. Centred on the knowledge and expertise of refugee-background young people and conducted in collaboration with Manchester Museum and Sheba Arts, this project introduces citizen science and participatory arts-based practices to the discipline of ancient history, and conversely the use of ancient history and heritage in refugee studies. Through the application of an innovative new approach—participatory arts-based object biography—this project will create unique opportunities to explore shared histories and inheritances and to open up new possibilities for a more inclusive politics of belonging.

Objectives of the project:
– To collaborate with refugee-background young people to research, and critically and creatively interrogate, the biographies of ancient historical objects from their regions of origin.
– To develop a participatory arts-based approach to produce and share creative object biographies with diverse audiences via a live exhibition and online resources.
– To challenge exclusionary narratives about refugees in the UK by producing object biographies that demonstrate the long history of migration and colonial entanglement between the UK and refugee-producing regions.
– To support refugee-background youth citizen scientists to develop skills, knowledge, and networks.
– To promote participatory arts-based citizen science in heritage, ancient history, refugee studies, and community contexts through co-producing and disseminating academic and public outputs.

Project banner
The artwork for this project’s website has been produced by Anastasia Morozova. It is a collage of objects from Sudan, Palestine, Syria, Iran, and Iraq, today housed in Manchester Museum. You can find more information about the objects included in this image here.

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