• Faculty

  • Cresa Pugh

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


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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 first book project, Guardians of Beautiful Things: The Politics of Postcolonial Cultural Heritage Theft, Refusal and Repair, examines 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 extremists in Myanmar.

    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

    Peer-Reviewed Publications

    Pugh, C. (2023). “History of the Present: Assessing Morality Across Temporalities.” In: Hitlin, S., Dromi, S.M., Luft, A. (eds) Handbook of the Sociology of Morality, Volume 2 . Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-32022-4_22

    Pugh, C. (2023). Review of Africa’s Struggle for Its Art: History of a Postcolonial Defeat by Bénédicte Savoy, Africa, Volume 93 (2): 316-318.

    Pugh, C. (2023). “’Bandits into Militants’: Unlooting and the Legitimacy of Plundered Cultural Heritage Removal,” Europe Now Journal, Council for European Studies, https://www.europenowjournal.org/2023 /02/21/bandits-into-militants-unlooting-and-the-legitimacy-of-plundered-cultural-heritage-removal/

    Pugh, C. (2022). “The Migration Trajectory of the Benin Bronzes,” Migration Studies, 10(2): 274-282. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/migration/mnab016

    Pugh, C. (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. (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. (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. (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.            

    Other Media

    Pugh, C. (2023). “The West Owes Climate Refugees Reparations Now” The Globe Post, https://theglobepost.com/2023/08/14/west-climate-refugees-reparations/

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

    Pugh, C. (2019). “Race, Ethnicity and Culture: How do Rohingya Explain Concepts that Undermine Their Existence?” The Globe Post. https://theglobepost.com/2019/04/09/rohingya-social-identity/

    Pugh, C. (2018). “I visited the Rohingya camps in Myanmar and here is what I saw,” The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/i-visited-the-rohingya-camps-in-myanmar-and-here-is-what-i-saw-94202

    Research Interests

    empire, visual and material culture, restitution, colonial violence, Britain, Nigeria, Myanmar

    Future Courses

    Contemporary Social Theory
    LSOC 3069, Spring 2025

    Decolonize the Museum
    LSOC 3121, Fall 2024

    Env. Hist & Soc Just
    LSOC 3155, Fall 2024

    Ind Senior Project
    LSOC 4990, Spring 2025

    Independent Study
    GSOC 6990, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

    Past Courses

    GSOC 5061, Spring 2024

    Env. Hist & Soc Just
    LSOC 3155, Fall 2023

    Ind Senior Project
    LSOC 4990, Spring 2024

    Independent Study
    GSOC 6990, Fall 2023

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