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Professor Robbie Aitken

Professor of Imperial History


Summary

I am an historian of Black Europe and of Empire and I have written widely on the development of a Black community in Germany. My current research focus is on the Black experience of Nazi Germany and Black compensation claims made in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

About

I joined SHU in 2010 after having previously worked at the University of Liverpool. I am an historian of Black Europe and my research and teaching interests include the history of the Black Diaspora in Germany, European colonialism, and constructions of race in pre-1945 Europe. My first book project, Exclusion and inclusion: Gradations of whiteness and socio-economic engineering in German Southwest Africa, 1884-1914 (Lang, 2007) looked at constructions of race in the settler colony of German Southwest Africa. I have since published widely on Germany's first Black community including Black Germany: The Making and Unmaking of a Diaspora Community, 1884-1960 (with Eve Rosenhaft, Cambridge University Press, 2013, 2015). My current research focuses on the Black experience of Nazi Germany as well as post-war compensation claims made by Black victims.

I have also worked on a number of museum and memorialisation projects in Germany and I have developed my own travelling exhibition, Black Germany 1884-1945, which has been shown in the UK, Germany and Cameroon and used with a number of school groups.

Currently I am a book review editor for H-Black Europe and I am an active contributor to the website Black Central Europe.

African Diaspora in Germany/Europe

German and European colonialism

Constructions of race and conceptions of
blackness and whiteness

Modern German and European history

Teaching

Department of Humanities

Social Sciences and Arts

Black Germany, 1884-1960

British Trading Firms in colonial Cameroon

Subject Area

Department of Humanities.

Courses

BA History

Modules

- Empires and Encounters
- Ideas into Action
- Germany 1890-1933
- Race: Difference and Power
- Citizenship, Violence and Race: Germans and Africans in Colonial and Postcolonial Encounters

Research

I am currently working on the experiences of people of African heritage during the Nazi period and their efforts to receive compensation from the West German state in the aftermath of World War Two.

Featured Projects

Collaborators and Sponsors

Young Scholars Network, Black Diaspora and Germany, University of Münster

Black Germany Exhibition with Destination Arts

Publications

Aitken, R. (2012). Advertising Empire: Race and Visual Culture in Imperial Germany. CENTRAL EUROPEAN HISTORY, 45 (3), 565-567. http://doi.org/10.1017/S0008938912000416

Aitken, R. (2010). Surviving in the metropole: the struggle for work and belonging amongst African colonial migrants in Weimar Germany. Immigrants & minorities, 28 (2-3), 203-223. http://doi.org/10.1080/02619288.2010.484248

Aitken, R. (2009). Religious Conflict and the Evolution of Language Policy in German and French Cameroon, 1885-1939. CENTRAL EUROPEAN HISTORY, 42 (4), 774-776. http://doi.org/10.1017/S0008938909991221

Aitken, R. (2008). From Cameroon to Germany and back via Moscow and Paris: the political career of Joseph Bilé (1892-1959), performer, "Negerarbeiter" and Comintern activist. Journal of Contemporary History, 43 (4), 597-616. http://doi.org/10.1177/0022009408095417

Aitken, R. (2007). Looking for die Besten Boeren: The normalism of Afrikaner Settlement in German South West Africa, 1884-1914. Journal of Southern African Studies, 33 (2), 343-360. http://doi.org/10.1080/03057070701292632

Book chapters

Aitken, R. (2019). Forgotten histories: Recovering the precarious lives of African servants in Imperial Germany. In Garrido, F.E., Koegler, C., Nyangulu, D., & Stein, M.U. (Eds.) Locating African European Studies: Interventions—Intersections—Coalitions. Routledge: https://www.routledge.com/Locating-African-European-Studies-Interventions-Intersections-Conversations/Garrido-Koegler-Nyangulu-Stein/p/book/9781138590328

Aitken, R. (2018). Germany's black diaspora: the emergence and struggles of a community, 1880s–1945(1). In Black Diaspora and Germany (BDG), (Ed.) The black diaspora and Germany:Deutschland und die schwarze diaspora. (pp. 84-100). Munster, Germany: Edition Assemblage: https://www.edition-assemblage.de/buecher/black-diaspora-and-germany/

Rosenhaft, E., & Aitken, R. (2013). Introduction. In Rosenhaft, E., & Aitken, R. (Eds.) Africa in Europe: studies in transnational practice in the long twentieth century. (pp. 1-16). Liverpool: Liverpool University Press

Rosenhaft, E., & Aitken, R. (2013). Introduction. In Rosenhaft, E., & Aitken, R. (Eds.) Africa in Europe: studies in transnational practice in the long twentieth century. (pp. 1-16). Liverpool: Liverpool University Press

Aitken, R. (2013). Education and migration: Cameroonian school children and apprentices in the German metropole, 1884-1914. In Honeck, M., Klimke, M., & Kuhlmann, A. (Eds.) Germany and the Black diaspora, : points of contact, 1250-1914. (pp. 213-230). New York: Berghahn

Books

Aitken, R., Stroh, S., & Ellerbe, C. (Eds.). (2018). Black Diaspora and Germany: Deutschland und die Schwarze Diaspora. (1). Munster Germany: edition assemblage.

Aitken, R. (2013). Africa in Europe: Studies in transnational practice in the long twentieth century. Liverpool University Press. https://www.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/books/isbn/9781846318474/

Aitken, R., & Rosenhaft, E. (2011). Black Germany: The making and unmaking of a diaspora community, 1884–1960. http://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139649575

Aitken, R., & Aitken, R.J.M. (2007). Exclusion and Inclusion Gradations of Whiteness and Socio-economic Engineering in German Southwest Africa, 1884-1914. Peter Lang.

Theses / Dissertations

Burke, S.J. (2021). An encultured imperialism: British travel writing from the post-Napoleonic Atlantic periphery. (Doctoral thesis). Supervised by Collins, B., & Aitken, R. http://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00385

Exhibitions

Aitken, R. (2015). Black Germany, 1884-1945. [1 banner stand, 3 large pop-ups, 6 smaller pop-ups]. Multiple locations.

Aitken, R. (2015). Black Germany, 1884-1945. [1 banner stand, 3 large pop-ups, 6 smaller pop-ups]. Multiple locations.

Aitken, R. (2015). Black Germany, 1884-1945. [1 banner stand, 3 large pop-ups, 6 smaller pop-ups]. Multiple locations.

Aitken, R. (2015). Black Germany, 1884-1945. [1 banner stand, 3 large pop-ups, 6 smaller pop-ups]. Multiple locations.

Other activities

I am currently a book review editor for H-Black Europe and I am an advisory board member for the Peter Lang Book series, Imagining Black Europe.

Postgraduate supervision

I am currently supervising the following PhDs:

- The Aid Spain movement in interwar Britain
- Everyday Life in Diaries from the Ghettos of Warsaw and Łódź

Media

My research focuses on the development of a Black Community in Germany from the onset of realised colonialism in the 1880s up to and beyond the Second World War. I also have an active interest in the history of European colonialism.

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