photo of Divya Tolia-Kelly

Prof Divya Tolia-Kelly

Post:Professor of Geography and Heritage Stud (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 ethnocentricism in cultural politics and more recently on 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)


Professor of Geography & Heritage Studies

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 committeeof 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*

(1)    Sept 25th 2019, 1-3pm Julie Evans (Melbourne):

Title: Realizing critical theory in practice: two recent collaborations: Chair: Alan Lester

ABSTRACT: This paper reflects on two recent Australian-based research projects that bring critical theory on modern European expansion, settler colonialism, and the conduct of lawful relations before a broader audience. Funded by the Australian Research Council, these collaborative, interdisciplinary, and cross-sectoral endeavours direct attention to the structural injustices that helped constitute settler societies through authorising the initial dispossession of Indigenous peoples and the subsequent regimes of management and control that persistently work to deny their sovereignty and entrench settler privilege.


(2) Oct 2nd 2019, 1-3pm: Joint Event with the Ethnicity, Race and Diverse Societies Research Network: Prof. Bridget Anderson Migration Mobilities Bristol (Director): Chair: Michael Collyer: Title: De-exceptionalising the Domestic: methodological de-nationalism and domestic labour.

ABSTRACT: The doing of domestic work reflects, reproduces and entrenches complex inequalities and social hierarchies, effectively making and re-shaping difference across different axes. Research has examined this difference making in terms of migration, race and gender, and in this presentation I will take difference making as a starting point to see how attention to how differences are made can help us find commonalities. I will start by consider immigration controls as difference making mechanisms, interacting with social ideas of race and nation; I will then consider the role of states in exceptionalising domestic work and taking it outside the labour market. I will then give some examples of how examining the mechanisms for institutionalising difference rather than naturalising difference can help us uncover important connections between different groups of migrants and between migrants and citizens that have the potential to be both analytically and politically productive. To illustrate this I will draw on a range of previous research but principally a project conducted for the ILO in 2016 on working conditions and attitudes towards migrant domestic workers in Thailand and Malaysia.


(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: Life in the uninhabitable, undeserving and uncanny’:

ABSTRACT: The paper explores the politics of life at the margins of Bucharest, Romania, and the emergence of homing infrastructures within socio-technical conditions that for the many are a matter of uninhabitability (Amin, 2014; Simone, 2018). The work focuses on a number of illegal instantiations of ‘urban dwelling’: a community of drug users living within socialist blocks deemed for demolitions since the late ‘80s; evited Roma people squatting pavements in the city center to fight for their right to housing; and a tunnel passing under Bucharest’s central train station, where a number of homeless people established their home for years. Through years of extensive ethnographic observations, photo-taking, and interviews, the paper traces an assemblage of bodies, veins, syringes, substances, and various relationships of power and affect, which speaks of drug addiction, homelessness, racialized bodies and extreme marginalization, but also of a sense of belonging, solidarity, reciprocal trustiness, and becoming (Lancione, 2016). The goal of this work is to trace the emergence of a very peculiar and enduring infrastructure of ‘home’ and ‘care’ within supposedly uninhabitable, and illegal, spaces. It contributes to debates around homing practices at the margins of the urban (Brickell et al., 2017; Veness, 1993).


(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.