The History of the Unbelieved: Roundtable

Date / time: 4 May, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The “history of the ‘unbelieved’” is a methodological and practical extension and application of subalternism in historical research, yet one that presents profound challenges to any historian trained in academic historical methodology. If it is a worthy academic exercise (particularly given the prevalence and importance of the current agenda of ‘decolonising the curriculum’ [and, by extension, our own research and research approaches]) to give a ‘voice to the voiceless’ in history and in the archives, then why do historians often ignore or seek to explain away as something else, the agency of the preternatural and supernatural when it is specifically attributed to them by subaltern historical subjects?

If we decide that seeking to understand our historical subjects on their terms and according to their worldview is a valuable approach, then what language do we use in our mediation (as historians) of their history when we attempt to explain peoples’ everyday interactions with the preternatural and supernatural, to the secular academic audience? What frameworks for analysis can we justifiably use to restore the agency of these beings which is documented (substantially and frequently) in the archival record in the testimonies of colonised and subaltern peoples? What will history look like if we seek to write it from within the cosmology of our historical subjects rather than writing if from within our own? How will our research questions and the answers to them change? Is this something that should or even can be done?

The roundtable will consist of short exposé of case studies by the panelists followed by discussion and Q&Q from the panel chair, the panel and members of the audience.

The event has been sponsored through the generosity of the Methodological Innovation and Development Award Scheme (MIDAS), engage@liverpool, and the Religious Cultures Research Cluster in the Department of History.

Case Studies for Discussion:

  • Professor Luke Clossey (Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada): Was Elizabeth II a Medieval Chinese General? Rebirth as a Way to a non-Western Social Sciences.
  • Professor Diana Jeater (University of Liverpool): Spirits and Agency in Zimbabwe.
  • Dr Andrew Redden (University of Liverpool): The Devil is A Jailbreaker: The Unlikely Alliance between Lucifer and Pedro de Abalos (Peru, 1720).
  • Dr Roland Clark (University of Liverpool): Panel Chair.


This event will take place at 502 – Flex 2, University of Liverpool. No booking required.