Dr Shahmima Akhtar

Personal profile

I am broadly a historian of race, migration and empire. I teach on the history of world’s fairs in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Britain and the United States, with a particular focus on Ireland. I am interested in constructions of whiteness, the intersections between display, and the visual in identity making. Taking a cultural approach to the study of history, I map modes of knowledge production as it relates to marginalised communities within the British Empire. 

Follow me on twitter @shahmima_akhtar

Research interests

I am particularly interested in visual forms of identity production and the ways in which the realm of display and culture intersect or else sustain modes of being, whether politically, socially or culturally. In my research, I have taken case studies of Ireland’s display in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Britain and the United States, to interrogate what, and how visions of Irishness were engendered in the fairground. Questions I ask include: How does this fictive Ireland relate to Irish politics in the contemporary period? Who was curating these versions of Irishness? And how were these displays received? At the heart of these questions is a keen interest in the methods by and through which selfhood is imagined in both the popular and personal sphere. What specific historical notions of the Irish were held? And how were these engaged with? Taking into account the contested forms of knowledge production, I consider the multi-layered dimensions to being gendered, raced and classed. 

Research interests (continued)

I am currently working on Exhibiting Irishness: Empire and Identity, 1851-1970 to be published with Manchester University Press in September 2022. My next project continues my intellectual interest in knowledge formation as a site of resistance for minority groups and looks specifically at the South Asian diaspora. Provisionally titled “Longing for Home”: Voices of History, Citizenship and Identity in Britain’s South Asian Communities, seeks to interrogate the expansive notions of ‘British citizenship’ adopted by South Asian migrants moving to Britain in the 1970s and 1980s in terms of where home is and how those decisions were made.


I teach on a range of undergraduate courses such as History in the Making, Historiography, Independent Essay Group, and Concepts, as well as on the MA in Public History. 

I am undertaking a Higher Education Academy Fellowship.

I also have a keen interest in race, ethnicity and equality in UK History. 

View all (15) »

View all (16) »

ID: 39019591