An interview with Dr Chamion Caballero

An interview with Dr Chamion Caballero

University of Cambridge
Festival of Ideas

Dr Chamion Caballero, a senior research fellow at London Southbank University, is speaking at the “Mixed race: the future of identity politics in Britain” debate on 25th October. Her research formed the basis of the BBC’s recent Mixed Britannia series, fronted by George Alagaiah. With Dr Peter Aspinall of Kent University, she collected histories, photographs, images and film to highlight the voices and first-hand experiences of mixed race people. The photo is from LBSU’s coverage of the Mixed Britannia series.

Q What was the feedback from Mixed Britannia?

A The feedback from the Mixed Britannia series has been phenomenal. The BBC tells us that it received the second highest audience satisfaction score for a current affairs series and even now we continue to receive emails from viewers all around the world who inform us just how fascinating, enlightening and moving they found the programmes.

Q How did you become involved?

A In 2007, Dr Peter Aspinall (University of Kent) and I were awarded funding by the British Academy to explore the mostly overlooked experiences of mixed race people, couples and families in early twentieth century Britain, a period which we had come to understand had seen considerable public debate on racial mixing and mixedness. This project – The Era of Moral Condemnation: Mixed Race People in Britain, 1920-50 – unearthed a range of material and the strength of the findings was such that they inspired and formed the foundations of the Mixed Britannia series on which we acted as academic consultants.

Q Has it affected your ongoing research?

A Yes, absolutely. While the broadcast medium was a very successful dissemination route, it was nevertheless a temporary and partial one: the series is no longer available to view on iPlayer and, moreover, only provides an overview of the history rather than the more detailed account that we are able to provide through, for example, academic publications which are themselves accessed by a limited readership. With this in mind – alongside the awareness of what Dr Caroline Bressey calls the ‘absence of colour in British Archives’ – we recognised the need to identify new and creative ways to provide access to archival material on the lived experiences of groups whose histories remain somewhat hidden from public understandings. In 2012, we collaborated with the third sector organisation Mix-d and were fortunate to receive a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to create the ‘Mix-d Museum’, an interactive online repository of the material we had collected on racial and ethnic mixing in 20th century Britain. We are also in the process of finalising our book based on the research behind the programme to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015 as Racial Mixing and Mixedness in Britain: Social Constructions and Lived Experience in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Read the entire interview here.

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