Jonathan Watson

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

My research focuses on two areas:

1) The cultural politics of race. I am currently completing a paper on the reception of Muddy Waters' LP Electric Mud and the wider discussion of the blues in Rolling Stone magazine during the 1960s. The paper evaluate the role of romantic racial discourse in the transcultural exchange of ideas regarding the nature of blues music during a period when audiences transitioned from being predominantly black to predominantly white.

2) The politics of racial leadership in Southern California. This work has produced one conference paper and ongoing research in a second area. My D.Phil. thesis tracked the development of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from its inception to the 1950s. Further studies are tracing a) Booker T. Washington's visit to the city in 1903 and its impact on local black politics b) Martin Luther King's interactions with local civil rights and anti-poverty activists in the city up to and including the Watts rebellion.

Approach to teaching

My teaching across the the Humanities programme supports students in developing a critically engaged approach to historical research.

As leader for the Year 1 module Historical Inquiry I have worked with colleagues to develop an introduction to history that examines not only a key historical event - the impact of the Second World War - but uses that event to examine how history works in a number of contexts: we consider myth, memory, ideology, the archive, gender, race and power as issues that historians need to understand an negotiate with as they examine the past.

As a tutor on the 'Race' and Resistance option in years 2 & 3 my work draws on research interests to explore the histories of racism and anti-racism in the United States, France and Britain from the 19th century to the present. Over 2 years we use these comparative studies to consider the context of various racial regimes and patterns of resistance.

As a tutor on the Politics History and Ideology option in years 2 & 3, we explore the intersections of international politics and the national  history of the United States as we explore the rise to dominance of that state and the internal battles over the role of the state, the development of political trends, and the status of 'ordinary' Americans.

As a tutor on the Radical Histories option, my work builds on research to consider how such sources as slave interviews, blues music and zoot suits provide us with the hidden transcripts that might help us understand histories of power, marginalisation and resistance.

Knowledge exchange

As an academic committed to outreach work with local schools and colleges I have worked as an academic coordinator for Humanities outreach since 2012. This work has included running 6th Form Philosophy Conferences, coordinating a residential Humanities Summer School, developing day-long workshops for schools on the Royal Pavilion during the First World War and coordinating general and subject-led talks and workshops by colleagues that we offer in support of the University's Compact programme.

Supervisory Interests

My supervisory interests include the history of African-American activism in what has been termed the "Long Civil Rights Movement". I am interested in developing understanding of how different modes and traditions of advancement worked in relation to each other in the twentieth century. In addition to that, there is an overlap between my own research interests in African American popular music and its representation in the 20th century, and the way popular music cultures have provided locations to examine histories of race, class and gender via cultural production.


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