• Faculty

  • Cresa Pugh

    Assistant Professor of Sociology; Director of Undergraduate Studies and Departmental Faculty Advisor for Sociology


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    D - 6 East 16th Street

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    Cresa Pugh


    Cresa Pugh is Assistant Professor of Sociology at The New School for Social Research. Her research examines the social legacies of imperialism in postcolonial Africa and Southeast Asia, cultural heritage and museums, and violence. 

    Using archival and ethnographic data collected across three continents, her dissertation, entitled ‘Guardians of Beautiful Things’?: The Politics of Postcolonial Cultural Heritage Theft, Refusal and Repair (2022), examined the politics of cultural theft, specifically thinking through how debates about artifacts looted from the Benin Kingdom (Nigeria) by British forces now housed in Western museums help us understand and grapple with the vestiges of cultural imperialism. The project interrogates questions of ownership, appropriation and violence through the medium of 16th century brass and ivory artifacts whose displacement continues to serve as an archival record of a dispossessed cultural body. Her research fundamentally examines narratives of restitution and repair and the ways in which healing and the reclamation of memory and communal historiographies materialize in the postcolonial context. Her work sits at the intersection of transnational historical and cultural sociology; postcolonial theory; materiality; race, ethnicity and indigeneity; and museum, art history and heritage studies.

    She has also conducted research on the colonial roots of the ethnoreligious persecution of the Rohingya by Buddhist elements in Myanmar. Her next book project will examine role of art looted from Portuguese territories in the development of the Portuguese slave trade and empire.

    Degrees Held

    PhD Sociology and Social Policy, Harvard University, 2022
    MA Sociology, Harvard University, 2019
    MSc Migration Studies, Oxford Unviersity, 2013
    BA Anthropology and Religion, Bates College, 2004

    Professional Affiliation

    American Sociological Association
    Council for European Studies

    Recent Publications

    Pugh, C. (Forthcoming Fall 2022). “The Migration Trajectory of the Benin Bronzes,” Migration Studies, Oxford Academic Journal.

    Pugh, C.L. (2022). Cosmopolitan Repair: Reclaiming and Restoring Cultural Heritage in Postcolonial Nigeria. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369801X.2022.2080572

    Pugh, C.L. (2022). “We Shall Be Telling our own Stories”: Bernie Grant, the Africa Reparations Movement, and the Restitution of the Benin Bronzes. Politique africaine 165, 143-166.

    Pugh, C.L. (2022). “Relational Reparations: On the Promise of Post-National Repair.” Postcolonial Interventions, Special Issue: Rethinking Postcolonial Europe: Moving Identities, Changing Subjectivities, 7(1): 50-80. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5923535

    Pugh, C.L. (2013). “Is Citizenship the Answer? Constructions of belonging and exclusion for the stateless Rohingya of Burma,” International Migration Institute Working Paper Series, University of Oxford.               

    Performances and Appearances

    Pugh, C.L. (2019). “Can the International Community Save the Rohingya?” The Globe Post, https://theglobepost.com/2019/11/26/legal-cases-rohingya/

    Pugh, C.L. (2019). “Race, Ethnicity and Culture: How do Rohingya Explain Concepts that Undermine Their Existence?” The Globe Post

    Pugh, C.L. (2018). “I visited the Rohingya camps in Myanmar and here is what I saw,” The Conversation

    “Ethnic and Religious Conflict of Southeast Asia,” The Journalist Chat, 2020

    “Displacement: The Rohingya,” Veritalk podcast, Harvard University, 2018

    “Exodus Worsens Education for Rohingya Children,” VOA News, 2017

    “The Rohingya Crisis,” The Mittal Institute podcast, Harvard University, 2017

    Research Interests

    empire, cultural heritage, theft and looting, (post-/anti-)colonial violence, Britain, Portugal, Nigeria, Myanmar

    Awards And Honors

    Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, 2022

    The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2021 – 2022

    Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, George Hoguet Fellow and Graduate Student Associate and Research Grant, 2019-2022

    The Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates, 2020

    Dan David Prize in Cultural Preservation and Revival, University of Tel Aviv, 2020

    Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University, Dissertation Research Fellowship, 2020 – 2021

    Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Merit and Term-Time Research Fellowship , 2020 – 2021

    Weatherhead Research Cluster on Comparative Inequality and Inclusion, Harvard University, Research Grant, 2020 – 2021

    South Asia Institute, Harvard University, Summer Research Grant, 2018

    Asia Center, Harvard University, Summer Research Grant, 2018

    Weatherhead Center Pre-Dissertation Summer Research Grant, 2018

    Committee on the Study of Religion, Harvard University, John L. Loeb, Jr. Fellowship, 2017                                                                                                     

    South Asia Institute at Harvard University, Winter Session Research Grant, 2017                                                                                                                                            

    Current Courses

    Env. Hist & Soc Just
    LSOC 3155, Fall 2023

    Independent Study
    GSOC 6990, Fall 2023

    Past Courses

    Decolonize the Museum
    LSOC 3121, Spring 2023

    Postcolonial Theory
    LSOC 3044, Fall 2022

    Southern Feminisms
    GSOC 6145, Spring 2023

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