Rhian Keyse

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College: College of Humanities
Discipline: History
Department: History
Research Centre/Unit: Centre for Imperial and Global History

My doctoral research examines imperial and international discourses relating to women’s and girls’ rights in British colonial Africa, focusing on forced and early marriages, c.1925-62. These remain important areas of international, national and local concern, particularly for Africa. However, current concerns often understand the issue as one relating to ahistorical notions of 'tradition' or 'culture', and rigidly define child and forced marriages. The inattention to the historical and local specificities of these practices ignores their imperial roots. To shed light on this longer historical trajectory, I explore contentious debates within and between the British Colonial Office, mission societies, British and transnational women's organizations, the 'international community' represented by the League of Nations and the UN, and African communities. I examine questions of polygamy, forced and child marriages, and bridewealth, to elucidate how debates on African marriage were influenced by shifting ideas of colonial governance in this period. I aim to show how the growth of the international community - and associated ideas of anticolonialism, development, and universal rights, particularly women's and child rights - shaped these debates. Existing studies of African marriage focus on local micro-studies: my research is the first to place these questions within the broader imperial and international frame, and examine them across British colonial Africa as a whole. This represents an important original contribution to the scholarship and provides essential context for current debates.

My wider research interests encompass African gender histories, post-colonial violence and warfare, and histories of crime,deviance, punishment and the law in colonial Africa.

I completed my BA in History at the University of Cambridge, where I was awarded the Trinity Hall Excelect Prize in my final year. I hold an MSc. in African Studies from the University of Oxford. Both my undergraduate and Masters' theses explored issues of gender-based violence and women's and girls' participation in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Immediately upon completing my MSc, I worked with Professor David Anderson and James Smith on an AHRC-funded project exploring Somali nationalism and resistance to colonial rule in northern Kenya.

Outside of academia, I have professional experience in running national-level campaigns relating to equality and human rights. I am also an experienced practitioner in the field of gender-based violence. I am an accredited Independent Domestic Violence Advocate, and worked in Cardiff and London with clients considered to be at very high risk of homicide or serious harm as a result of domestic and sexual violence, forced marriage, and 'honour'-based violence. I have experience in NGO management, academic journal editing, policy development, and training design and delivery.