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The Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies


The Ferguson Centre promotes the interdisciplinary study of empire and postcolonial conditions with a particular focus on Africa and Asia. Since its establishment in 2002, it has hosted seminars, exchanges, postgraduates and run collaborative research projects.

Members have contributed to the writing of a range of current Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences courses including:  A326 Empire 1492-1975; A300 20th century literature: texts and debates; A215 Creative writing; A815 MA English; A230 Reading and studying literature. Members have also contributed to previous courses including: AA316 The nineteeth-century novel; A180 Heritage, whose heritage?; AD281 Understanding global heritage.

Centre Director: Dr Sandip Hazareesingh
Assistant Director: Dr John Slight



Ferguson Centre Director awarded an AHRC Research Networking for International Development (GCRF) grant

Centre Director Sandip Hazareesingh has been awarded an AHRC Research Networking for International Development (GCRF) grant for a 12-month pilot project on 'Changing Farming Lives in South India, Past and Present'. The project's main aim is to explore the potential of various aspects of history, film, and sound, to document and support small farmer creativity and resilience to food, biodiversity and climate issues in south India. It will be carried out in collaboration with a Karnataka-based NGO, Green Foundation, which works with local smallholders to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable agriculture. The AHRC peer reviewer for the project wrote: 'This is an ambitious project which has the potential to produce long-term beneficial contributions to knowledge of significant cultural practices, as well as contributing to the sustainability of those practices through a heritage record of them'.

Ferguson Centre Director was one of the OU’s Academic Consultants for the BBC-OU documentary 'Dangerous Borders'

Centre Director Sandip Hazareesingh was one of the OU’s Academic Consultants for the BBC-OU documentary series ‘Dangerous Borders: A Journey across India and Pakistan’, broadcast in August 2017 on BBC2 to mark the 70th anniversary of the independence of India and Pakistan.

Ferguson Centre welcomes new Assistant Director

John Slight, Lecturer in Modern History, has joined the Centre as Assistant Director.



Joint Ferguson Centre-International Development and Inclusive Innovation workshop

Cultural capacity building. Internal workshop on ideas for potential AHRC-GCRF bids

Date: 10:00 - 16:00, Wednesday 11th October 2017; Venue: CMR15, Walton Hall, The Open University, MK7 6AA ; Registration: contact Dawn Edwell

The aim of this FC-IDII strategic research area workshop is to bring together people across the OU who might be interested in adapting their research so as to participate in collaborative bids targeted at the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) initiative. GCRF was set up in 2015 to address a wide range of issues highlighted in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including inequality, social justice and well-being for people and communities across the developing world. The AHRC has been granted an allocation of £26 million from GCRF over the period 2016-20 specifically to develop opportunities for the Arts and Humanities research community. A key gap seems to be that both the AHRC and arts and humanities scholars have not considered themselves ‘international development’ experts so that both struggle to know what to fund or apply for. We feel the OU is well-placed to lead in this area and the workshop is a first step in that direction.

The format will involve a number of short 10-minute presentations followed by a workshop aimed at generating ideas broadly on the theme of ‘cultural capacity building’ and at identifying a range of methodologies that speak to the contribution that arts and humanities research can make to challenges relating to international development.  We aim for participants to be drawn from across the OU including those working with visual methodologies, historical methods, storytelling and literary approaches, design, art, and curation practices.

Please send your title and an abstract of around 100 words to Belinda Wu by Friday 22nd September 2017.


Joint Ferguson Centre-Innovation Knowledge and Development (IKD) lunchtime seminar

Why is genital cutting so controversial? Female genital mutilation abandonment and forced male circumcision as cultural rights issues in Kenya today

Date: 12.00-14.00, Wednesday 18th October 2017; Venue: Oak Seminar room, Block C. All welcome.

Dr Lotte Hughes (Ferguson Centre, History) and Dr Mark Lamont will present papers based on case studies carried out for the ESRC-funded project ‘Cultural Rights and Kenya’s New Constitution’ (2014-17) in which they were, respectively, PI and Research Associate. The papers will examine, separately, issues around what is colloquially known as ‘circumcision’ or ‘the cut’. Both throw up issues around the tensions between human rights versus cultural rights, in the new dispensation following the passing of a 2010 Constitution which enshrined cultural rights for the first time, while outlawing harmful cultural practices. The best known of these practices and the one that draws the greatest condemnation internationally is FGM/C, or female genital mutilation/cutting, traditionally performed upon pubescent girls to mark their initiation into womanhood. However, FGM does not always involve rites of passage or initiation, and is in some places performed on much younger girls. Far less attention is paid to, and disapproval heaped upon, male circumcision, which does not tend to be regarded in Kenya as gender violence at all – even when carried out by force on adults. FGM is against the law in Kenya, male circumcision (forced or non-forced) is not. The presentations will explore some of the issues arising, in the context of, on the one hand, the local and globalised moral panic around FGM, and, on the other, the almost total silence around ritualised male gender violence.


Recent events

Joint Ferguson Centre-OpenSpace half-day seminar on ‘Non-Eurocentric approaches to environmental history’

2 November 2016, The Open University, Milton Keynes.

Seminar abstracts and programme.

Cultural Rights in Action: from global policy to local practice

Wednesday 20 April 2016, British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya.

A one-day workshop that will present preliminary research findings by the project team drawn from case studies across Kenya.
More information at and

Panel on Heritage and Subversion in Africa

3-8 June 2016, Association of Critical Heritage Studies conference, Montreal, Canada. Conference website

The British Empire and the HAJJ book cover

New publication

The British Empire and the Hajj, 1865-1956 by John Slight, Harvard University Press, 2015.

Find out more about this book

Masjid Sultan (Sultan Mosque), Arab Street, Singapore (2007). Photo: Karl Hack

Masjid Sultan (Sultan Mosque), Arab Street, Singapore (2007). Photo: Karl Hack

Egyptian Prime Minister Abdel Nasser with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the Bandung Conference, Indonesia, 1955

Egyptian Prime Minister Abdel Nasser with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the Bandung Conference, Indonesia, 1955