People of the Commonwealth: Critical Conversations

A Commonwealth for All: Acknowledging the Past – Reimagining the Future

Jump to Guests
Guests
Olivette Otele
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah
Zareer Masani
Guy A. K. Hewitt
George Ayittey
Harshan Kumarasingham
Date & Time
2:00pm, 20 October 2020 - 3:30pm, 20 October 2020
Location
About the event

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought pre-existing inequalities within and between our societies into sharp relief. But now is also a chance for us to pause, converse and build a collective will for change.

In our first-ever conversation we will aim to openly address the reality of the Commonwealth’s legacy; the impacts of that legacy; and, critically, to challenge the Commonwealth to realise its potential to contribute to a more positive and just future.

Guests
Olivette Otele Panel Chair
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah Panellist
Zareer Masani Panellist
Guy A. K. Hewitt Panellist
George Ayittey Panellist
Harshan Kumarasingham Panellist
Panel Chair
Olivette Otele

Olivette Otele is the UK’s first black female Professor of History of Slavery at Bristol University. She was previously Professor and Chair of History at Bath Spa University. Her research centres around transnational history and, in particular, the link between history, collective memory and geopolitics in relation to British and French colonial pasts. Her work explores how Britain and France have been addressing questions of citizenship, race and identity through the politics of remembrance. It also enquires into the value of public gestures, the meaning of public history and the impact of memory and memorialisation processes in public spaces (museums, statues, etc.). More broadly she looks at the history and memories of people of African descent in Europe, Africa, America and Asia.

Professor Otele holds a PhD in History from the Sorbonne University in Paris. She has co-authored 19 peer-reviewed academic publications and two edited volumes and is a regular contributor to the BBC History Magazine, BBC World Histories, BBC Radio programme Making History. She has featured in several documentaries including the recent BBC One’s Civilizations Stories: The Remains of Slavery (April 2018).

Professor Otele’s book AFRO-EUROPEANS: An Untold History is published on 29 October 2020 (Hurst Publishers).

Panellist
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah is the Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust, an organisation working towards the liberation of LGBT+ people around the world. Widely known as Lady Phyll—partly due to her decision to reject an MBE in the New Year’s Honours’ list to protest Britain’s role in formulating anti-LGBT+ penal codes across its empire—she is the nucleus of the award-winning celebration and protest that is UK Black Pride; a community builder and organiser; an Albert Kennedy Trust patron, and a public speaker focusing on race, gender, sexuality and class. She’s regularly called upon to advise nascent LGBT+ organisations around the world to help leaders create cogent organising strategies, establish robust partnership networks and work effectively in service of the LGBT+ community.

Panellist
Zareer Masani

Zareer Masani is the author of Macaulay: Britain’s Liberal Imperialist (Bodley Head, 2014).  He has an Oxford history doctorate (1976) and is the author of three other historical books: Indira Gandhi: A Biography (Hamish Hamilton, 1975), Indian Tales of the Raj (BBC, 1987) and India from Raj to Rajiv (BBC, 1988).  He has also written a widely acclaimed family memoir, And All Is Said: Memoir of a Home Divided (Penguin, 2013)

Zareer spent two decades as a current affairs producer for the BBC and is now a freelance historian, journalist and broadcaster.  He has presented several recent documentaries on India for BBC Radio 4, on subjects ranging from the Tata business empire to the dismantling of the Nehru historical legacy. His particular areas of interest are imperial history, and especially the legacies of the Raj in India. He is currently researching a book entitled Benevolent Empire: British Partnership with Indians under the Raj.

Panellist
Guy A. K. Hewitt

The Reverend Ambassador Guy Hewitt spent his entire career working in the public sector in Barbados, the Caribbean and internationally. He previously held positions at the University of the West Indies, Caribbean Community and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

He served as the High Commissioner for Barbados to the United Kingdom (2014-2018) and was one of the leading advocates on the Windrush scandal. As High Commissioner, he was a member of the Boards of Governors and Executive Committees of the Commonwealth Secretariat and Commonwealth Foundation.

In 2016, to celebrate Barbados’ 50th Anniversary of Independence, he published Fathering a Nation on the life and legacy of The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, the first Prime Minister of Barbados and one of its National Heroes. He also edited/co-authored other books.

Following the Windrush Scandal, this Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, made a vocational change and now serves as a priest in the Diocese of Southeast Florida and a Public Policy Ambassador with the Episcopal Church.

Panellist
George Ayittey

Dr. George Ayittey is a Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute; and a Distinguished Economist (retired) at American University, in Washington, DC. (USA) where he taught Development Economics and Africa’s Economic Crisis at both undergraduate and gradate levels. Prior to joining American University, he taught at Wayne State College in Nebraska and Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania. In recognition of his scholarship on Africa, he was made a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California in 1988 and a Bradley Resident Scholar at the Heritage Foundation in 1989.

Dr. Ayittey was born in Ghana, West Africa, where he obtained all his primary education and B.Sc. (Economics) from the University of Ghana, Legon, in 1966.

Dr. Ayittey is also the Founder and President of the Free Africa Foundation www.freeafrica.org, which he established in 1993 in Washington, D.C., to serve as a catalyst for change in Africa. The Foundation’s mantra is: Africa is poor because she is not free. The former President of Ghana, John Kufuor, described Prof. Ayittey as “one of the architects of change” in bringing democracy to Ghana.

Dr. Ayittey has written numerous articles and several highly-acclaimed books on Africa. He has appeared frequently on several radio and TV talk shows. 

Panellist
Harshan Kumarasingham

Dr Harshan Kumarasingham is from New Zealand where he read History and Politics, completing his doctorate in Comparative Politics at Victoria University of Wellington.  His work, encompassing the disciplines of Politics, History and Law, is wide-ranging covering British Politics and History; Comparative Politics and History, particulary of the former British Empire and Commonwealth; South Asian studies; Constitutional history and politics; Executive Power;  State-Building and Decolonization; Parliamentary issues; the Crown; and the Westminster model and its export across the world.

Before coming to the University of Edinburgh, Harshan held many international appointments including Smuts Fellow in Commonwealth Studies at the University of Cambridge, Alexander von Humboldt Fellow and Lecturer in Comparative Politics at Ludwig Maximilan University in Munich, Rydon Fellow at King’s College London and Endeavour Research Fellow at the University of Sydney.

Dr Kumarasingham is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and also sits on their Advisory Board.  He is also an Affiliated Scholar at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

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