JHI Circle of Fellows Spotlight—Fatema Mullan

May 12, 2023 by Sonja Johnston

Fatema Mullan is a third year undergraduate student in the Faculty of Arts and Science at the University of Toronto, St. George Campus. She is working towards a Specialist in History with a Major in Diaspora and Transnational Studies, and has been recognized as a University of Toronto Scholar, Dean’s List Scholar and has twice received the Norma Brock Award. Prior to her return to the academy as a mature student, Fatema worked in non-profit community and arts organizations and was active in voluntary grassroots initiatives for social change. Fatema joins the JHI in 2022-2023 as one of our JHI Undergraduate Fellows and received the Milton Harris Undergraduate Award in the Humanities.

What are your main research interests?

My research interests are rooted in the histories of empire and colonialism and how these histories continue into the present. I am interested in moving away from the notion of colonial legacies to explore continuities, and rather than articulating ends to colonialisms as historical ruptures I explore the concept of coloniality to articulate how colonial modes of being and power persist, but are obscured. In particular, I hope to focus future research on eighteenth and nineteenth century British imperial control on the Indian subcontinent and in the Atlantic World.

What project are you working on at the JHI and why did you choose it?

At the JHI, I am working on my senior thesis towards the completion of my Specialist in History. My research uses the conceptual framework of the coloniality of labor to examine colonial continuities in Trinidad from the abolition of slavery in 1834 to the end of the Indian indentureship program in 1917. My work explores tensions between colonial imperatives and the agency of the subaltern and demonstrates how the two are inextricably linked in the development of Trinidad’s labor landscape at this transitional historical juncture. I analyze the use of legal mechanisms and land distribution during this period to articulate the shaping of Trinidad’s labor landscape in an effort to address the pre-independence racial polarization between Afro-Trinidadians and Indo-Trinidadians spatially through an urban/rural divide, and in the political and economic spheres.

What are you hoping to experience as a JHI Fellow?

I was most excited about the opportunity this fellowship provided to take a deep dive into a specific area of historical research, learning more about my chosen topic, but also exploring ways to apply the concept of coloniality to historical production. I was also equally excited to meet the other fellows and staff at JHI and engage on an inter-disciplinary level with their work.

What have you enjoyed the most so far?

I’ve enjoyed our conversations about the research we’re conducting and the different paths we pursue as it unfolds. Chatting with the faculty, postgrad, graduate and undergrad fellows has been a pleasure. Getting to know the other undergraduate fellows has been especially nice!

Share something you read/watched/listened to recently that you enjoyed/were inspired by.

My inspiration comes from conversations I have with colleagues, friends and family and through witnessing the resilience of Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities and LGBTQI+ individuals in the face of our continuing struggles. Lately, and especially, my kids provide a constant source of inspiration.

What is a fun fact about you?

When I need to decompress I read the most non-academic, not serious, fluff you could imagine! I also watch the cheesiest shows and can re-watch movies a million times because I never remember the plot.