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Roots and routes: Literary archaeologies of British museums in contemporary Black and Asian poetry

Gregory Fox, Rachel (2023) Roots and routes: Literary archaeologies of British museums in contemporary Black and Asian poetry. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, . Article Number 0021989423. ISSN 0021-9894. E-ISSN 1741-6442. (doi:10.1177/00219894231162501) (KAR id:101087)


This article explores some of the ways in which contemporary poets are tracing the roots and routes via which objects have come to, and continue to, reside within the walls of the museum. Focusing on poetic mediations of British Museums — on the Museum of London, the Manchester Museum, and the British Museum — the article analyses the works of Bernardine Evaristo, Inua Ellams, and Daljit Nagra. These poetic mediations can be read as literary archaeologies — as the concept is used by Evaristo — which speak to the histories, movements, and contemporaneous moments of colonial encounter that take place within the institution of the museum. The article moves to consider the way in which literary archaeologies might chart both a history of migration — looking at Bernardine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe — and the migration of objects which are displayed in museums in Britain — with a focus on Inua Ellams’s poem Tusk — before going on to examine the museum as institution, as it is presented in Daljit Nagra’s collection British Museum. Setting these distinct, but complementary poetic interventions alongside one another, the article asks: how do these literary archaeologies respond to the histories and present-day stories told by — and about — British museums in the twenty-first century?

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/00219894231162501
Additional information: For the purpose of open access, the author(s) has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising.
Uncontrolled keywords: Literature and literary theory
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Funders: Leverhulme Trust (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 18 May 2023 13:33 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2023 12:10 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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