Significance of the Study

significanceIn this study, parallels are drawn with the approach of Professors Adjoa Aiyetoro and Adrienne Davis (2010) in their historic study of N’Cobra activists in the USA.* Like the US study of N’COBRA activists, the research being conducting is also ground-breaking in that it is also the first to research the movement from within and ‘from below’. Since this research consists of undertaking a historical study of the ISMAR rather than sociological or legal research on the case for reparations, it is important to note that reparations historiography in itself is an emerging field of academic research. Notably, this is the first historical study on the presence of an ISMAR in the UK, or indeed its local, national or international dimensions, albeit, focusing on London as a site of knowledge production and other forms of activism on reparations. Neither has there been any research conducted about living reparations activists by way of documenting their activism in pursuit of advancing the cause of reparations.

A central claim of this research is that the ISMAR is a social movement with international dimensions and one whose trajectory goes beyond the confines of the UK. It is argued that the contributions of key London based activists have global rather than just national significance. This study therefore makes an important contribution to increasing the visibility of the ISMAR in the UK and producing new and academic knowledge on the movement’s emergence, scope, goals and preliminary outcomes.

Equally of note is the fact that this study makes a scholarly contribution to developing movement relevant theory, i.e. theorising by reparations movement activists and organisers. Towards this end, the research is being conducted within the action research paradigm. Action research is essentially research through action which uses research tools and methods which not only relevant to, but also promotes the empowerment of, the African reparations community of interest. It is usually a collaborative activity – involving input from people who are likely to be affected by or who have an interest or stake in the research findings or outcomes and seeks to change the power relations inherent in the research process and society at large. Action research therefore seeks to change or improve a condition, system or practice and learn about this through changing or improving it. For the purposes of this research ‘changing practice’ includes utilising the knowledge being co-produced for advancing reparations goals by improving and strengthening existing reparations campaigning and social movement-building initiatives and processes.

One of the actions that research participants advocated for is the development of the Afrikan Reparations Transnational Community of Practice (ARTCoP), the only community of practice focusing on the co-production of knowledge on African reparations in the world. A community of practice is commonly understood to be a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

Rather than seeking to privilege what academics and those located within formal institutions of education ‘know’ and can ‘teach’ activists about how to wage a successful reparations campaign, the ARTCoP seeks to learn from the lived experiences and community struggles of reparations activists, campaigners, the ISMAR and African and African Diaspora communities at large. In addition, telling the story of the ISMAR through the lens of key activists who have shaped it in the past twenty five years, this study will contribute to informing local and global academic, legal and policy dialogues and debates on reparations as a form of reparatory justice in the UK. Reparatory justice focuses on strategies, actions and programmes which seek to repair, in some way, the wrongs and damage caused as a result of historical and contemporary forms of injustice and also resulting in social change.

N.B. see Aiyetoro, A. & Davis, A. ‘Historic and Modern Social Movements for Reparations: The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) and its Antecedents’, 16 Tex. Wesleyan Law Review 687 (2010)

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