Edgar Taylor is a postdoctoral fellow with CISA. He pursued his doctoral work in Anthropology and History from the University of Michigan, where his research examined the dynamics of urban protest and racial thought in late colonial and postcolonial Uganda. He also has a MA in History from Makerere University in Kampala, where he lived from 2006 to 2008 while conducting research on the circulation of racial ideas in Ugandan print culture during the reign of Idi Amin.Edgar’s current project examines the material infrastructure of urban protest and social intimacy in 1950s and 1960s Uganda, which often allowed for the coexistence of ethno-racial chauvinism and political and cultural horizons that extended across the British Empire, the Black Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. In addition to his research on racial thought and urban history, he is also interested in the transnational politics of historical commemoration surrounding the history of Ugandan Asians in Uganda, Great Britain, and Canada.
My research examines the material infrastructure and intellectual genealogies of racial thought, urban protest, and social intimacy in 1950s and 1960s Uganda. By paying attention to particular forms of political protest and communication, my current project analyses how social movements that are largely regarded to have been parochial, ethnic, or national were often embedded in cosmopolitan networks of actors who pursued experimental political and cultural goals while seeking stronger participation in Indian Ocean commercial networks. This work shows how histories of urban space and infrastructure shaped the use of racial categories before the expulsion of South Asians from Uganda in 1972. State versions of racial nationalism often overshadow earlier forms of protest and sociality that linked urban residents with global commercial and intellectual networks. Using previously inaccessible archival collections from Uganda and Great Britain alongside vernacular press accounts and oral histories, I am studying how anonymous threatening letters were used to discipline Uganda’s African urban residents into limiting the commercial and social relationships that connected them with their Asian neighbours on the eve of Uganda’s independence. At CISA, I will also pursue research on the relationship between integration as a political ideal and social life in the sites where it was supposed to be realized, such as university dormitories and nightclubs. By taking such an approach to the micro-politics of racial thought, this project also examines how struggles to shape the position of South Asians in late colonial and postcolonial Uganda were embedded in regional and transoceanic conflicts over generational and gendered authority.