Dr Churnjeet Mahn

Reader

English

Personal statement

I am a researcher in literature with expertise in travel writing, race, and sexuality. 

My work on travel began with a study of British women’s travel to Greece in the long nineteenth century and the complicity of feminist movements with discourses of racism and Orientalism (Mahn 2012). A recurring theme in this work was how the tangible heritage of Greece was whitewashed as ‘European’ while Greece’s intangible heritage was represented as irrecoverably corrupted by Ottoman occupation and the influence of Islam. This work combined research on the Classics, emerging humanities disciplines such as Geography and Ethnography, literary studies, and women non-fiction writers interested in race and politics. By using travel writing as a genre which connected these disparate figures (who were often connected through shared voyages and itineraries), I produced the first major study of how British women co-operated with, and through some feminist thinking sometimes resisted, the construction of (ancient) Greek heritage as part of a white, western world. My work on ethnography, maps and areas with Islamic influence led to my selection as one of the AHRC/British Council UnBox Fellows for 2013 and a subsequent impact-led grant on how to rehabilitate one of Punjab’s historic Mughal-era gardens to public memory (PI, AHRC, A Punjabi Palimpsest).

Since then, my work has continued to be focused on the intersection of race and travel, with a special focus on interactions with the Muslim world. My work on Punjab and the run-up to Partition, along with its aftermath, was informed by how folk culture had been (mis)represented in the accounts of British colonial folklorists and anthropologists who had key roles in influencing colonial policies that created official social categories which did not accommodate the complexity of real social structures (Malik, Mahn, et al 2020; Mahn 2017). This work led to two collaborations with organisations working with Punjabi heritage as part of the AHRC grant Creative Interruptions. This large 3-year grant was awarded as part of the Connected Communities programme and was based on collaborative and co-designed research and impact.

Alongside this work, I have a long-standing interest in queer theory which originates from my work on Jane Ellen Harrison’s reading of pre-modern matriarchal cultures alongside the popularity of Greece as a destination of key queer thinkers and activists from the nineteenth century. I have written on the relative absence of queer theory and critical engagement with sexuality in the field of travel writing (Mahn 2015) and am currently working on a book project about queer of colour writing about travel. I have delivered equalities-led research on this issue in an AHRC grant (PI, States of Desire) which aimed to address how queer lives could be recognised and supported in a leading anti-racist refugee organisation which struggled to reconcile cultural differences to LGBTQ+ identities within the organisation (Mahn, Milne, et al 2019). I am also currently working on a smaller project on researching the lives of queer South Asian migrants to the UK (PI, British Academy, Cross-Border Queers).

 

Current projects:

British Academy - Cross-Border Queers: The Story of South Asian Migration to the UK (with Dr Rohit Dasgupta, University of Glasgow)

AHRC EDI Fellowship 

Publications

Queering postcolonial travel writing
Mahn Churnjeet
Studies in Travel Writing Vol 24, pp. 170-182 (2021)
https://doi.org/10.1080/13645145.2020.1852653
Creativity and Resistance in a Hostile World
Malik Sarita, Mahn Churnjeet, Pierse Michael, Rogaly Ben
(2020)
Personalising disaster : community storytelling and sharing in New Orleans post-Katrina tourism
Mahn Churnjeet, Scarles Caroline, Edwards Justin, Tribe John
Tourist Studies (2020)
https://doi.org/10.1177/1468797620967597
Negotiating space for queer-identifying young people in a refugee organisation : viability, complexities and tensions
Mahn Churnjeet, Milne Ej, Guzman Mayra, Ahmed Farhio,
Journal of Refugee Studies Vol n/a, pp. n/a (2019)
https://doi.org/10.1093/jrs/fez101
Making Lives, Making Communities : Scottish Asians in Glasgow
Raje Guari, Mahn Churnjeet
(2018)
Introduction to partition and the practice of memory
Mahn Churnjeet, Murphy Anne
Partition and the Practice of Memory (2018) (2018)
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-64516-2

More publications

Professional activities

Keynote at the International Borders and crossing Conference
Speaker
2019
Panel organiser and participant, Partition Interrupted
Speaker
2019
Invited Research Talk to UBC and University of Punjab students
Speaker
2019
Spring into Methods Research Talk
Speaker
2019
Invited Rountable participant Decolonising the Humanities
Speaker
2019
Panel organiser and participant for Creative Interruptions Festival
Speaker
2019

More professional activities

Projects

Creative Interruptions: grassroots creativity, state structures and disconnection as a space for 'radical openness'
Mahn, Churnjeet (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2016 - 31-Jan-2020
Connecting States of Desire: Sustaining LGBTQ Lives in a Refugee Organisation
Mahn, Churnjeet (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2015 - 31-Jan-2016
Sustaining LGBTQ Lives in a Refugee Organisation
Mahn, Churnjeet (Principal Investigator)
This is a co-designed and collaborative project focussing on using humanities research to open up discussions of LGB identities in a refugee organisation.
01-Jan-2014
Where we are not: the contribution of disconnection, division and exclusion to imaginative (im)mobility (AHRC)
Mahn, Churnjeet (Co-investigator)
This research considers the role of imaginative mobility (the creativity of the mind) in connecting people to imaginative communities. Imaginative communities may be based on nostalgia or have no basis in lived reality. They may be influenced by literature, art, travel writing, and religion. We will explore how arts practice can be used to transform imaginative mobilities into works of art (e.g. performance, film, pictures) and how the curation of these art forms may help us to understand our own situation, empathise with others, and contribute to social connectivity or the sense of belonging.
01-Jan-2014 - 31-Jan-2015
Creative Interruptions: grassroots culture, state structures and disconnection as a space for 'radical openness' (AHRC)
Mahn, Churnjeet (CoI)
Creative Interruptions will examine how grassroots cultural initiatives generate a critical space for 'bottom-up' creativity in a range of contexts of disconnection in the UK and internationally. The research identifies how processes of disconnection, exclusion and marginalisation impact on creative practitioners and disconnected communities and how arts and media forms are utilised to make meaning and 'creatively interrupt' state structures and dominant modes of representation. By co-designing an exploration of practice on the ground, the project will interface with a range of disconnected social groups and produce an edgy, self-reflexive and field-defining piece of international research.
01-Jan-2014 - 31-Jan-2015
Disaster Tourism and Memorialisation in New Orleans
Mahn, Churnjeet (Co-investigator)
This is a collaborative project between academics in literary studies and tourism to analyse processes of memorialisation in post-Katrina New Orleans with a special focus on race and heritage. The project collaborators are: Prof Justin D Edwards (University of Surrey), Dr Caroline Scarles (University of Surrey) and Prof John Tribe (University of Surrey).
01-Jan-2014 - 01-Jan-2014

More projects