photo of Divya Tolia-Kelly

Prof Divya Tolia-Kelly

Post:Professor of Geography and Heritage Studies (Geography)
Location:ARTS C C124

Telephone numbers
UK:01273 678026
International:+44 1273 678026

Research expertise:
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Divya P. Tolia-Kelly is Professor of Geography & Heritage Studies at Sussex. Prior to this appointment she held lectureships in geography departments at U.C.L., Lancaster and a Readership at Durham until 2017. Divya has a BA (hons) from Nottingham (1997), and PhD (2002) from University College London.

Divya was born in Kenya and arrived in the UK in 1973. Her research is focussed on postcolonial and anti-racist approaches to cultural geographies, migration, landscape, memory, heritage, visual culture and material culture using participatory methodologies. Divya has published several articles on the theory and politics of 'race' in relation to these themes, including decolonising the academy, ethnocentrism in cultural politics and more recently on decolonising museums and race, affect and the anthropocene. Her books published include a monograph Landscape, Race and Memory (2010); Visuality/Materiality: Objects, Images and Practices (edited with Gillian Rose) and the co-edited volume (with Steve Watson and Emma Waterton) entitled Heritage, Affect and Emotion:Politics, practices and infrastructures (2016). Divya is currently Series Editor (with Emma Waterton) of the Routledge Book Series Critical Studies in Heritage, Emotion and Affect (

Divya is currently writing a research monograph entitled An Archaeology of Race at the Museum (contracted with Routledge) that links to the exhibition of the same name ( developed with antiquarians, historians, curators and keepers of artefacts at Tullie House, Segedenum, Arbeia, Great North museums along Hadrian's wall.

Divya has a keen committment to praxis and thus is committed to extending her research on 'race' to the everyday environment of HE: working towards a truly universally inclusive place to work, research and write. Divya is thus committed to supporting the decolonising the curriculum and why isn't my professor black? campaigns through her equality and diversity work in situ. In this vein, Divya was the lead academic in setting up the Coaching and Mentoring Network at Durham (2012-17), and seeks to enable BAME and women accross academia to access equality of opportunity and support through direct coaching and mentoring support. Divya is also an inaugral committee member of the Royal Geographical Society's RACE Working Group (2017). Since December 2017, Divya has devised, conducted training for 18 staff and convened the Sussex BAME and Women's Coaching and Mentoring Network in Global Studies. This BAME and Women's Coaching and Mentoring Network will be formally launched in May 2020, and is available to anyone who is a member of staff at Sussex. 


Professor of Geography & Heritage Studies

Office Hours:  Mon 12-1pm; Wed 9-10am: Please do drop in or make an appointment via email.

Divya has a commitment to contribute to the decolonising the curriculum and equality and diversity initiatives in H.E. and within the School of Global Studies. She is an inaugral member of the RACE working group committee of the Royal Geographical Society and a ITLM5 trained coach and mentor with an expertise in working with women and BAME academic staff, to enhance thier retention and advancement in HE in response to these marked inequalities in progression see

If you are interested in training to be a mentor or discussing the process please contact me. Also these documents enclosed give insight into the aims and nature of coaching / mentoring relationships:

Divya is also currently convening the departmental research seminar sessions including internal, external speakers, reading, writing and grant writing events.

Geography Research Seminars:  Autumn 2019: Beyond the Fringe . . .

SESSIONS are held on Wednesday's C333 in Arts C, Third Floor, in the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex *Except Dec 11th Session*

(3)     Oct 16th 2019, 1-3pm, Marcin Stanek: Chair: Divya P. Tolia-Kelly:

Title: Colonial forms, decolonial transformations:Lessons on decoloniality from secondary schools in urban Bolivia: ABSTRACT: The vast majority of recent decolonial scholarship that circulates in westernized academia focuses either on critiques of coloniality, or visions of decolonial alternatives. Broadly speaking, such work is by large concerned with form, understood as a ‘particular character, nature, structure, or constitution; mode of existence or manifestation’ (Oxford English Dictionary 2019). However important, the focus on form often ignores the question of transformation, or the process of changing form in order to arrive at an alternative. Through this seminar, I invite the audience to consider a processual reading of decoloniality, which shows the latter as a particular kind of transformation. Such reading is rooted in a year-long, ethnographic research on decolonial education in urban Bolivian secondary schools. Based on an analysis of numerous conversations with Bolivian students, teachers, activists and scholars, I argue that decoloniality in Bolivia is not challenged per se, but through competing meanings of transformation. In order to do so, I divide the paper into two main parts. First, I present a reading of the modernity/coloniality/decoloniality research programme, which is attentive to the relation between decoloniality and transformation. Second, I analyse ethnographic materials, which show how different actors within the Bolivian eduscape negotiate decoloniality through competing meanings of transformation. I conclude with a brief discussion of what processual thinking of decoloniality as transformation might mean for geography and geographers working at westernized universities.

(4)     Oct 30th 2019, 1-3pm, Michele Lancione: Michele Lancione; The Urban Institute, The University of Sheffield: Chair: Divya P. Tolia-Kelly

Title: Dwelling in liminalities: The otherwise care of Bucharest underground.

ABSTRACT: The paper explores the politics of life underground in Bucharest, Romania, and its capacity to invent a home within an infrastructure, and overall socio-technical conditions, which for the many are a matter of uninhabitability (Amin, 2014; Simone, 2016). The paper focuses on a tunnel passing under Bucharest’s central train station, where a community of drug users and homeless people established its home for years. Relying on extensive ethnographic observations, visual work, and interviews undertaken within the premises of one of Bucharest’s underground canals, the paper traces and illustrates the socio-material entanglements characterizing life underground. This is an assemblage of bodies, veins, syringes, substances, and various relationships of power and affect, which speaks of drug addiction and extreme marginalization but also of a sense of belonging, reciprocal trustiness, and care (Lancione, 2019a). The goal of this work is to trace the emergence of the infrastructure of ‘home’ in the abnormal conditions of life in the tunnels of Gara de Nord and to highlight what that meant in terms of urban politics in Bucharest (Chelcea and Druţǎ, 2016) and beyond (Butler, 2011). The paper contributes to debates around homing practices at the margins of the urban (Veness, 1993; Vasudevan, 2015; Lancione, 2019b), and it promotes a deeper understanding of the peculiar politics emerging from the assemblage of life underground in Bucharest.

(5)     Nov 27th 2019, 1-3pm Sneha Krishnan: 

Title: Re-orienting the Intimate: Religious Conversion and Geopolitics in the time of ‘Love Jihad’: Chair: Josie Jolley

ABSTRACT: Religious Conversion has been examined as a site of geopolitical and demographic tension in the study of minority groups in South Asia. This paper is an attempt to make sense of the way in which religious conversion and marriage intersect in contemporary India as a site where ‘home’ – as simultaneously a site of biopolitical and geopolitical discourse – is troubled. In particular it focuses on the discourse of ‘Love Jihad’ in contemporary India: the Hindu Nationalist casting of relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women as the result of a Jihadist conspiracy to convert by seduction. In doing so, it reads conversion as a form of ‘re-orientation’ (Ahmed 2010): queering in its fracturing of heteronormative futurity within caste and communal lines and in its articulation of embodied affect. This allows the paper further, to take seriously the dissonance effected by the figure of the convert as a threat to the ‘domestic’ as a formation that simultaneously refers to home, and to matters of national security


(6)     Dec 4th 1-3pm Cath Senker Chair: Ben Rogaly

Title: Stranded in the Six-Day War

ABSTRACT: Cath Senker will give an illustrated talk about the 14 merchant ships that became trapped in the Suez Canal during the Six-Day War in 1967 and were marooned there for eight years. It will be a followed by a 4-minute clip about the story, broadcast on the BBC One Show in July 2017. ABSTRACT: In June 1967, at the outbreak of the Six-Day War, 14 merchant ships were passing through the Suez Canal. As hostilities erupted, they were ordered to halt in the Great Bitter Lake. Although the war was brief, after it finished, the Egyptian government refused the ships permission to leave. Those ships were trapped in the Suez Canal for a full eight years, until June 1975. Over the period, 3,000 seafarers served on the trapped ships in the middle of a war zone, maintaining the vessels and protecting their valuable cargos. Despite coming from countries on opposing sides of the Cold War, the crews forged a strong community, exchanging supplies and skills, and coordinating social and sports activities through the Great Bitter Lake Association (GBLA).


(7)     ***JOINT SEMINAR WITH UNIVERSITY OF BRIGHTON***Dec 11th 2019, Nov 13th 2019, 1-3pm,

Caitlin DeSilvey 

Chair: Divya P. Tolia-Kelly : Venue: Dorset Place, Room 201: University Of Brighton Galleries. University Of Brighton Galleries. 6 Dorset Place, Brighton, BN2 1ST

 ALL WELCOME (Coffee/ Tea and Cake is provided)


Community and Business

Divya is committed to both Public Engagement and Research Impact. In 2010 she was awarded a ‘Beacon Fellowship’ for Public Engagement Fellowship. In her work, public dissemination, engagement and dialogue have always been at the heart of her research methodologies and reflect a theoretical commitment to grounded theory which is evidenced by the years of time committed to building research collaborations with the cultural heritage sector. Synthesis between Divya’s research aims and current civic agenda has been a constant, and is reflected in collaborations with and support from several institutions including SASA gallery, Australia, The British Museum, Tyne and Wear museums, Towneley Hall Art gallery and Museum, Theatre on the Lake, Keswick, The Lake District National Park Authority, Burnley Pakistani Association; Durham University Museums; Arbeia Roman Fort museum, Tullie House Art museum and gallery, Durham Light Infantry museum and Art gallery, and the Cubitt gallery London.