Jonathan Westaway’s research focusses on the histories of mountaineering, mountain environments and exploration and is strongly interdisciplinary, drawing on insights from cultural geography and anthropology and involves working in collaboration with archivists, curators, artists, festivals and communities.
His recent research examines British imperial leisure cultures, knowledge practices and mountain environments in India and Central Asia c.1850-1947 and their representation in travel writing, photography and film.
Jonathan’s 2014 paper, ‘That Undisclosed World: Eric Shipton’s Mountains of Tartary (1950)’ explored the problematic nature of travel writing authored by servants of the British Imperial security state, calling into question the reliability of these texts as sources. This research was presented as a public lecture at the Kendal Mountain Festival 2014 and remains the most downloaded article in the journal Studies in Travel Writing. Further research examining the mountaineer Eric Shipton’s relations with the Government of India reached a global mountaineering audience in 2017 via the publication of the article ‘Eric Shipton’s Secret History’ in The Alpine Journal.
Jonathan is co-curating an exhibition of recently discovered photographs from the German Kanchenjunga Expedition of 1929, in conjunction with the renowned landscape artist Julian Cooper. The exhibition, Kanchenjunga 1929, will be held at the Heaton Cooper Gallery in Grasmere in the Lake District, opening in November 2018. The photographs on display provide an insight into post-war German mountaineering in the Himalaya and exhibit a strong ethnographic focus, opening a unique window into the hidden histories of indigenous expeditionary labour.
A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Jonathan has been researching and interpreting amateur and expeditionary film held in the RGS-IBG collections, which have recently been digitized by the British Film Institute. He delivered a public lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in London in November 2017 entitled Sir Clarmont Percival Skrine: Filming in Central Asia, part of the RGS-IBG ‘Be inspired’ lecture series.
Jonathan is currently establishing a research network entitled Other Everests? Commemoration, Memory and Meaning and the Everest Expedition Centenaries, 2019-2024. This network will work with the mountaineering community and significant mountaineering archives and collections, to reinterpret and contextualize the post-War Everest expeditions, bringing to bear recent scholarship in this area, in preparation for the Everest expedition centenaries in 2021, 2022, and 2024.
Colonial science and the imperial encounter with alterity informs Jonathan’s other recent research in the early-modern period, researching Inuit encounter stories from Orkney in the 1690s and early 1700s. These stories emerged as part of an attempt to compile a Scottish national geography undertaken by Fellows of the Royal Society. Part of a wider research interest in circumpolar histories and ‘the idea of north’, this research will be published in 2018 as ‘The Inuit Discovery of Europe? The Orkney Finnfolk, Preternatural Objects and the Abducted Colonial Body’.
Ph.D History, Lancaster University, 1996.
M.A. (Distinction) Modern Social History, Lancaster University, 1991