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Dr Zoe Troy Cormack


Profile summary

  • Informal Visitor
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Hist, Rel St, Soc, SP&C
  • History
  • zoe.cormack

Professional biography

I joined The Open University in September 2014 to work on the ESRC-funded project Cultural Rights and Kenya's New Constitution. I completed my PhD in the History Department at Durham University (2010-2014) with Dr. Cherry Leonardi. My thesis was a historical-ethnography of landscape in Warrap State of South Sudan. I studied for a BSc. in Anthropology at UCL (2005-2008) and an MSc. in African Studies at Oxford University (2009-2010).

Research interests

Pastoralism and cultural rights in Kenya

As part of the ESRC project  Cultural Rights and Kenya's New Constitution (led by Dr. Lotte Hughes) I am currently researching pro-pastoralist advocacy and attempts to claim cultural rights for pastoralists in northern Kenya.

My research is tracking how ‘culture’ is a site of claim making and resistance and how pastoralist ‘culture’ and ‘heritage’ are being strategically deployed by activists and civil society to negotiate or contest the changes that are currently anticipated in northern and ASAL regions  of Kenya (for example the impact of the LAPSSET project, mineral extraction and Vision 2030). Cases I am currently looking at include attempts to secure communal land arrangements through customary grazing rights and the revival of traditional grazing management councils. The research is investigating how pastoralist heritage is performed and negotiated a ‘cultural heritage of pastoralism’ is being shaped and defined in these processes and claims.

Material Culture from South Sudan in European museums

I am also working on a scoping project with the British Institute in Eastern Africa to investigate collections of South Sudanese material culture accross Europe. These relatively unstudied, but significant collections offer enormous potential for exploring South Sudanese history. As well as their academic value, there is also potential for this material to open up a more positive discussion of South Sudanese culture and identity at a time when the overwhelming focus of national and international discourse is on conflict and crisis. Further, it is hoped that a better understanding of material kept outside the country will be useful for South Sudanese research and cultural institutions, help to raise the profile of cultural heritage in South Sudan and provide a potential point of sustainable collaboration.


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