Avtar Brah, founder of Southall Black Sisters

To commemorate the College’s bicentenary in 2023, we’re showcasing 200 ‘Birkbeck Effects’ which capture the incredible stories of our vibrant and diverse community, highlighting their achievements and impact on the world. 

Avtar Brah

Avtar was a Professor of Sociology at Birkbeck; a specialist in race, gender and ethnic identity issues and was awarded an MBE in 2001 in recognition of her research.

Born in India, raised in Uganda, and made stateless by the anti-Asian policies of Idi Amin in the 1970s, she was made a refugee overnight and forced to extend her stay in the UK into a long-term residence.

She attended a thousands-strong demonstration organised by women’s collective Southall Black Sisters against the National Front in the mid-1970s which gathered national media attention and resulted in hundreds of demonstrators being arrested.

Avtar lectured and researched at Birkbeck for over twenty years from 1985 until her retirement from professorship. Her most seminal works are Cartographies of Diaspora, which takes a feminist, post-structuralist lens to analysing ‘difference’ and ‘diversity,’ and Hybridity and Its Discontents, exploring the history of ‘hybridity’ across multiple continents.


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