Dr Joanna Burch-Brown
BA, PHIL, PHD
I write and teach on contested heritage, reducing prejudice, black philosophical thought & environmental ethics. I enjoy working collaboratively with institutional leaders, community-based partners and policy-makers.
Senior LecturerDepartment of Philosophy
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I am a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at University of Bristol. Over the past several years my work has focused on issues of contested heritage and public memory. I've focused much of my attention on local issues in Bristol, related to memorializations of Edward Colston and slavery. I've used Bristol as a case study from which to understand philosophical issues around contested heritage and transitional justice. I am a founding member of the University of Bristol's Centre for Black Humanities, and academic director for the Fulbright Summer Institute on 'Arts, Activism and Social Justice'. I've collaborated with partners like Countering Colston and Urban Word Collective, and have worked with the Colston Hall / Bristol Beacon and a number of other Bristol institutions to navigate name changes and design measures to acknowledge and address history and legacies of slavery. I'm currently co-authoring a set of guidelines for councils reviewing contested heritage, and I was principal researcher on a case study of Bristol, for the Contested Histories in Public Spaces project of the International Bar Association, Euroclio, Salzburg Global Institute and Institute for Historic Justice and Reconciliation. I am currently serving on the Bristol History Commission. I have also written on a range of other topics including prejudice reduction, consequentialism and biodiversity. I've worked extensively with media and have contributed to working projects of DEFRA and Historic England. I did a postdoctoral research fellowship in Oxford, a PhD in Cambridge at Kings, in the History and Philosophy of Science Department, and a BA at Oberlin College. In 2003 I was awarded the Compton Fellowship to found a therapeutic horticultural project in London, which is now celebrating its 18th anniversary.
Joanna Burch-Brown is a Senior Lecturer and co-Director of Teaching for Philosophy at University of Bristol. Her innovative model of research and teaching has empowered young people in Britain and the US to develop their own initiatives addressing concerns that matter in their communities. One student reports that her courses “truly changed my global perspective” and another says "I've learned a lot about how I want to conduct myself in my life after this." Another says “It has empowered me … I know I can make a difference”.
From 2016-2020, she contributed to campaigns to change how Bristol memorializes figures like Edward Colston, and to help Bristol acknowledge and understand its historic role in transatlantic slavery. She has worked with institutional leaders across the city and internationally to understand perspectives on all sides, clarify responsibilities to different communiteis, and find balanced ways to address difficult history and its contemporary legacies. She has a particular interest is in bridging between different viewpoints and promoting understanding of the positive intentions of people on all sides.
In June 2021, Joanna will be directing the first ever free, city-wide Bristol Summer School, in her role as co-chair of the We Are Bristol History Commission - an initiative set up by the Mayor's office after the fall of Colston's statue, "to help us understand our past so we are better equipped to decide who we want to become." She is also part of a team who are writing guidelines for public bodies across the UK carrying out reviews of contested statues and streetnames.
In addition to her current work on contested heritage and public memory of slavery and colonialism, Joanna has broad interests in transitional justice, peacebuilding, intergroup attitudes, reducing prejudice, environmental ethics, sustainable development, Kantian ethics, philosophy of science and Buddhist philosophy. Joanna directs the Fulbright Institute’s most popular summer school, on 'Arts, activism and social justice', rated by 100% of its latest cohort as 'outstanding'. She is a founding member of the University of Bristol Centre for Black Humanities, and has had research collaborations with the Countering Colston campaign in Bristol, and with the International Network of Scholars and Activists for Afrikan Reparations. Before coming to Bristol, she did her PhD at King's College, Cambridge, in the History and Philosophy of Science Department, and a postdoctoral research fellowship at Oxford. She did her BA at Oberlin College. In 2003 she received a Compton Fellowship to establish Forest Farm Peace Garden, a therapeutic gardening project in East London, working with refugees and asylum seekers.
01/06/2021 to 31/05/2023
DescriptionCo-chairing commission set up by the Mayor of Bristol after the fall of the Colston statue, with responsibility for advising on contested heritage and public education around city history
Journal of Philosophy of Education
Journal of Applied Philosophy
- E-pub ahead of print
Bristol Evening Post
- Periodical article
PEA Soup (Philosophy, Ethics, Academic blog)
- Periodical article