Dr Rochelle Rowe (PhD, F.R.Hist.S, SFHEA)

Lecturer in Black British History

Background

I am a historian focused on the cultural history of race, gender and the body. I lecture in Black British History at the University of Edinburgh.  

My first book is Imagining Caribbean Womanhood: race, nation and beauty competitions 1929-1970, and tells a Black Feminist history of beauty spanning the Caribbean, Harlem and London, published in paperback by Manchester University Press. My current research explores the lives and labours of Black art models in nineteenth and twentieth century Britain;  performative blackness (racial imitation) and Black Histories in Scotland; and formulations of race, gender and identity in the Black British Press. 

My teaching focuses on Black Histories in the British Empire and includes dedicated courses on Carnival in the Atlantic World, Representations of Blackness in Britain and Europe, Black Activism in Britain since 1800 and Black Feminist Thought. I was recently honoured with the EUSA Teaching Award for Teacher of the Year in the College of Arts and Humanities.

Responsibilities & affiliations

  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Undergraduate teaching

  • Understanding Race and Colonialism
  • Carnival in the Atlantic World: politics, play and power
  • Representations of Blackness in Britain and Europe: 1800-1950 (4th year special subject) 
  • Historical Skills and Methods 1 & 2 (Black History in Britain; Oral History for Black History)
  • Historian's Toolkit

Postgraduate teaching

  • Black Activism in Britain since 1800
  • Black Feminist Approaches to History (Historical Methodologies)
  • Reading Visual Sources (Historical Skills and Sources)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?

Yes

Areas of interest for supervision

I am accepting research students in the following and related areas: 

  • Black Atlantic Histories 
  • Histories of Beauty, Beauty Culture and Consumption
  • Black Feminisms 
  • Black Histories in Britain
  • Modern Caribbean History 
  • Black People in the Art of Europe and the Americas

Current PhD students supervised

I am on the supervisory team of the Imperial Flight doctoral research project, a partnership with National Museums Scotland

I am co-supervisor of a new doctoral project exploring the experiences of Black Americans and advertising in twentieth century US. 

Research summary

I am a cultural historian whose work focuses on race, gender, and the body.

Current research interests

I am currently researching 'Performative Blackness and Black Histories in Scotland, 1839-1939'. This project examines how blackness was performed by white and black entertainers in Scotland in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, primarily in popular theatre and music hall, and by extension in the circus, human exhibitions, jazz, and local festivities. I also research the lives and labours of Black art models in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and have two publications in the pipelines from this line of research. The first is titled, 'Beauty, Ugliness, and Ideas of Difference Sara Baartman, Fanny Eaton, and Black Women’s Performance of Beauty in the Nineteenth-Century City' and will be published in the Cultural History of Beauty with Bloomsbury Academic. The latter is provisionally titled 'The Negro Type of Beauty': The Black Woman Muse in Jacob Esptein's Art and is currently being prepared as a journal article. I continue to write about the themes of race, gender and beauty in Black British print culture.

Past research interests

My first book, Imagining Caribbean Womanhood tells a transnational feminist history of black beauty spanning the British Caribbean, Harlem and postwar London and is published by Manchester University Press (2013). 

Knowledge exchange

'The Negro Type of Beauty': The Black Woman Muse in Jacob Esptein's Art, Britain and the World Conference (2023)

Panel Chair at Caribbean Crucible: Atlantic Migrations and the Making of the Modern World, Columbia University (2023).

'Buy Black: A Conversation on Black Feminism and Popular Culture', (2022)

'Beauty, Ugliness & Ideas of Difference' at the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory University for their Race & Difference Colloquium Series (2021) & Women's History Network (2021)

https://youtu.be/mLoewkvf5tw

Podcasts

(2024) Free Thinking Free Thinking - New Thinking : Muses and women's creativity - New Thinking : Muses and women's creativity - BBC Sounds

(2021) British Library's Unfinished Business podcast, part of their exhibition Unfinished Business: the Fight for Women's Rights where I was interviewed by Ade Hassan, founder of Nubian Skin

Listen to Unfinished Business: Pants, Pageants & Protests

​I've also been interviewed by Viv Groskop for her How to Own the Room podcast, which asks women from all walks of life about how they mastered public speaking. 

Listen to 'How to Own the Room'

Most recently I appeared on Leyla Okhai's award-winning podcast Diverse Minds to talk all things beauty politics and self-care. 

Listen to Black Beauty & Wholeness on Diverse Minds

I am on the steering committee at the University of Edinburgh's Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) three-year Institute Project on Decoloniality. 

Affiliated research centres

Project activity

I am currently researching 'Performative Blackness and Black Histories in Scotland, 1839-1939'. This project examines how blackness was performed by white and black entertainers in Scotland in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, primarily in popular theatre and music hall, and by extension in the circus, human exhibitions, jazz, and local festivities.

I also research the lives and labours of Black art models in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and have two publications in the pipelines from this line of research. The first is titled, 'Beauty, Ugliness, and Ideas of Difference Sara Baartman, Fanny Eaton, and Black Women’s Performance of Beauty in the Nineteenth-Century City' and will be published in the Cultural History of Beauty with Bloomsbury Academic. The latter is provisionally titled 'The Negro Type of Beauty': The Black Woman Muse in Jacob Esptein's Art and is currently being prepared as a journal article.

Lastly I continue to write about the themes of race, gender and beauty in the Caribbean and its diaspora. News of a new publication in this area coming soon.