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Dr Shona Thompson

Former Research Student


My research examines the role of empathy in commemorations of slavery and racial violence in the United States. My thesis critically examines the politics of empathy and visual cultures of pain, with a specifc focus on representations of the Black body from the eighteenth century to the present day. I interrogate museum exhibitions, living history sites, and historical reenactments which take slavery and racial violence as their subject, as well as photography, art, and literature. 

Thesis Title


Current Working Title: Empathy and the Commemoration of Racial Violence in the United States

Research overview

My research examines the role of empathy in commemorative displays of historical trauma and suffering. Specifically, I investigate audience responses to commemorative representations of African American history by exploring museum displays, memorials, and commemorative performances in the United States. 

Research Grants

Smithsonian Research Fellowship at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of American History (February 2020-May 2020). Fellowship granted through AHRC's International Placement Scheme, 2019.

AHRC North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership Award (October 2018-October 2020)

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Research Scholarship (October 2017- September 2018)

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Postgraduate Studentship (October 2016-September 2017)



MA History, Lancaster University (2016-2017)

BA (Hons) History, Lancaster University (2013-2016)

Current Teaching

HIST105: Histories of Violence: How Imperialism Made the Modern World.

UKSRO Summer School, 'Memory, Monuments, and the First World War'.

Additional Information

Professional Experience

Organiser of the Postgraduate History Conference ‘History in Motion: Space, Place, and Identity’ at Lancaster University (June 2019).

Committee Member for the Movement for Justice and Reconciliation’s project, ‘Voyages of the Zong’, Lancaster Branch.

Organiser and Chair of the Department of History Postgraduate Research Seminar Series (September 2017-July 2018).

Student Ambassador (2016-Present).


Conferences, Workshops, and Symposiums 

June 2019 'Witnessing Racial Violence: Empathy and Unsettlement at the Equal Justice Initiative's Memorial to Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum', Memory Studies Association Annual Conference, Madrid.

October 2018 ‘Acting Out, Working Through: The Politics of Empathy in Historical Reenactment’, Slave Dwelling Project Annual Conference, Murfreesboro, TN.

August 2018 ‘Tracing the History of Empathetic Engagements with Representations of Slavery’, African Atlantic Futures Conference, Leeds (UK).

December 2017 'In Empathy and Imagination': Commemorating Racial Violence in the United States', Memory Studies Association Annual Conference, Copenhagen.

October 2017 'Blood at the Root’: Slavery, Racial Violence, and the Body in Pain in American Commemorative Culture', 'Postgrads Against Slavery: Ideas to Impact' Interdisciplinary Workshop.

Contact me


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