Inspiring Nottingham Research Fellows

Kate Law, Nottingham Research Fellow, Department of History

Before starting at Nottingham, I’d done the scouting work for my current project in late 2014, when I was teaching in South Africa. I moved back to the UK in September 2016 to take up a research and teaching position, but the reality was that I never managed more than a few snatched days/weeks on the project, so I didn’t really feel much further forward with it.

When I found out about the opportunities provided by the Nottingham Research Fellowships – essentially three years that could largely be devoted to research – I was very keen to apply. 

Why Nottingham? 

One of the things that most attracted me to Nottingham was the strong emphasis placed on cross disciplinary scholarship. As my research sits at the interface of history, public health, development studies and medicine, it has been great to meet and work with colleagues in these fields. 

How would you explain your research? 

I am a feminist historian of the British Empire who specialises in modern South African and Zimbabwean history.

To date, my research has examined the relationship between transnational networks, settler colonialism and women's colonial histories, principally focusing on white women and the ambiguities of race and gender in the Southern African region.

My current project, 'Fighting Fertility: The Politics of Race and Contraception in Apartheid South Africa, c.1980-1994', grows out of my interest in the histories of female activism and liberal networks in Southern Africa. 

Transnational in focus, it concentrates on the efforts of the women's wing of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) to have apartheid South Africa banned from the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) due to its use of the controversial contraceptive injection Depo-Provera, while also interrogating the shifting meaning of "Family Planning" during the lifespan of the apartheid regime. 

What challenges are you hoping to tackle? 

Being at Nottingham and working with colleagues in CAS and the Institute for Policy and Engagement has allowed me to think more expansively about my research.

I’m trying to think of new ways to convince policy makers and NGO groups of the value of historical perspectives to their work. 

My biggest ambition is to see the concept of reproductive justice – an idea developed by women of colour in the US – mainstreamed in global contraceptive provision. 

What has been the greatest moment of your career so far? 

Seeing my first cohort of PG students graduate. 

Who or what has helped you get to where you are today? 

I continue to benefit from tremendously from the advice and support of a huge number of people, chief amongst them my PhD supervisor, Ian Phimister. 

What advice would you give to someone starting out? 

To be ‘on’ you’ve got to be allow yourself to be ‘off’. Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint! Be kind to yourself and others, and if you can, get a dog!


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