Paul Basu is Curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum and Professor of Anthropology in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford.
Paul is an anthropologist specialising in critical heritage, museum and material culture studies in transcultural contexts. He draws upon a wide range of ethnographic, historical and participatory methods to explore how pasts are differently materialized and mediated in the present, and how they shape futures. Paul's research examines the complex ways in which natural as well as cultural heritage is entangled in shifting regimes of value and geopolitical configurations. His work has often involved re-engagements with colonial archives and collections relating to West Africa, exploring their ambiguous status as both sites of epistemic violence and, potentially, resources for communities to recover cultural histories, memories and alternative ways of knowing and being in the world. He recently led the AHRC-funded Museum Affordances / [Re:]Entanglements project, exploring with a wide range of stakeholders the 'decolonial affordances' of colonial era anthropological collections.
Paul studied social anthropology at University College London, where he received his PhD in 2002. He subsequently held a lectureship then senior lectureship in anthropology at the University of Sussex, before taking up a readership at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, where he coordinated its renowned museum studies programme. He became Professor of Anthropology and Cultural Heritage at University College London in 2014 and Professor of Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in 2015. In 2022 he became founding director of the Global Heritage Lab at the University of Bonn, where he retains an affiliation.
Before becoming an anthropologist, Basu trained and worked in film and television production, and he continues to use audio-visual as well as other multimodal and participatory approaches in his research. He has designed and curated numerous exhibitions and museum spaces.