Department of History
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BA, MPhil, PhD (Cantab)
Gerard is a Lecturer in African and Global History in the History Department and Director of the Centre for Modern Studies (CModS) in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.
He joined the department in 2010 after a postdoctoral fellowship in development geography at the University of Cambridge and the Mellon Fellowship in Transnational History at the University of Oxford. He completed his PhD, on Sikh diasporas in East Africa and Southeast Asia, under the late Sir Chris Bayly at the University of Cambridge.
He works on global and transnational history, particularly focused on Africa (especially Kenya and Uganda, and increasingly Ghana) in the era of decolonisation from the 1940s-1970s. His other major interest is Afro-Asian connections over the twentieth and twenty-first century, both through diasporic approaches and the excavation of other transnational communities of affinity across the global south since the 1950s.
Current work focuses on cultures of decolonisation and how East African and West African writers, artists, musicians, trade unionists, socialists and other activists worked within global, regional and local networks to imagine worlds after empire in the global 1960s. Much of this endeavour focuses on the history of Africa’s most important and daring literary magazine, Transition, and the wider entanglements of culture, decolonisation and the global Cold War, not least through the Congress for Cultural Freedom, over the 1950s to 1970s. This research is part of a large collaborative Leverhulme funded project Another World? East Africa and the global 1960s (2018-2022).
In 2010, he took part in the fifth US National History Centre Research Seminar on Decolonization at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC. He held the 2012-13 Visiting Fellowship at the World History Centre, University of Pittsburgh. In 2015 he was a British Association of South Asian Studies and British Academy ECAF Fellow in New Delhi. He is a Harry Ransom Research Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, 2019-20. He maintains close links to the Makerere University, Uganda, the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and the University of Ghana, and sits on the ‘Global Africa Group’ Steering Committee of the World Universities Network. He is also a founding member of the ‘Africa Network York’.
He also engages with policy makers on African and global south affairs and, in particular, India’s diplomatic, economic and cultural engagements in contemporary Africa. He is keen to emphasises the importance of appreciating socio-cultural history and civil society organisation in driving policy making. Such outreach in the last few years has included briefings to the US Department of State; US National Intelligence Council; UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House); Spanish Government’s ‘Casa Africa’; Government of São Paolo, Brazil, YouGov and Open Society Institute. He also does regular consultancy and interviews for BBC Radio and TV, as well as various print media and online outlets.
Gerard’s research focuses on the intersections of decolonization, global Cold War, African cultural production, Afro-Asian networks, African statehood, (de)globalization and ideas about ‘development’ since the 1950s. His PhD work was split between East Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia. His postdoctoral work leans increasingly to the political and cultural history of East African, Afro-Asian and pan-African worlds, particularly how global connections were (and are) conceived and shaped by Africans. His work is intrinsically interdisciplinary, veering heavily into literary studies, cultural geography, political science, some art history and, in the past, international relations and political economy.
Another World? East Africa and the global 1960s
Levehulme-funded project with Emma Hunter (Edinburgh), Dan Branch (Warwick) & Ismay Milford (Edinburgh) – 2018-2022
Afro-Asian visions: new perspectives on decolonisation and the Cold War
Research network with Su Lin Lewis (Bristol), Carolien Stolte (Leiden), Rachel Leow (Cambridge), Leslie James (QMUL), Ali Raza (Lahore University of Management Sciences) and others.
Negotiating region and state after independence: imagining and (de)constructing integration in East Africa, 1960s-70s
Initially funded by the British Academy with Chris Vaughan (Liverpool John Moores), Emma Hunter (Edinburgh) & Julie MacArthur (Toronto)
Fraternal Reckonings: East Africa and India over the twentieth century
He is a strong believer in the scholarly desirability and indeed ethical necessity of collaboration in producing global, multi-centred historical research. History has been slow to this overdue turn. You can read more in a co-written manifesto published in Radical History Review in 2018.
Dr McCann welcomes research students in many areas of African, South Asian, transnational and global history, especially topics looking to global connections in the era of decolonisation, East African studies, Afro-Asian relations and cultures of decolonisation. PhD topics completed or currently supervised:
• The Orchestra on the Titanic: Oxfam and Kenya, 1963-2011.
• Decolonisation, Cold War and the Congress for Cultural Freedom in India, 1950-67.
• Mau Mau and cultures of colonial bureaucracy in Kenya.
• Women’s writing and decolonisation in East Africa’s global 1960s.
Summer term 2023