Profile: Peter Aspinall

Peter J Aspinall is Emeritus Reader in Population Health in the Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, having worked for a decade as a public health researcher at Guy’s, King’s & St Thomas’ School of Medicine, University of London. He is also Honorary Special Advisor to the London Health Observatory. He has been a principal and co-investigator on studies of mixed race identity and on the history of mixed race, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and British Academy, respectively (the latter with Dr Chamion Caballero). He was national convenor for the ethnic group question in the Office for National Statistics’ 2001 Census Development Programme, which secured categorisation for the ‘mixed’ group, and has also contributed as an Advisory Group member to the development of the 2011 Census cultural question set. Peter has published extensively in the field of ethnicity terminology, categorisation and classification, including academic papers on the terms the ’mixed race’ population use to describe themselves, what unprompted open response survey questions can tell us about the diversity of ‘mixed race’ identities, and the social evolution of the term ‘half-caste’. He is a Director and Trustee of the mixed race charity, People in Harmony, and was Academic Consultant on all three of the BBC2 ‘Mixed Britannia’ programmes.

Peter first met Chamion in the late 1990s when he was based at the SE Institute of Public Health and Chamion was preparing her University of Bristol PhD Thesis on Mixed Race: she was keen to know how ‘mixed’ categorisation had been achieved for the 2001 Census. This initial encounter led to many more over the years and a realisation around 2004/5 that we had no history of ‘mixed race’ in this country. This gave rise to a collaborative and successful effort to secure funding from the British Academy to undertake a history of mixed race during the years 1920-50, a period when mixing and mixedness were morally condemned. The “Mixed Race Timeline” was an obvious extension of this study. Bradley’s work on how mixed race school children and young people identified themselves, and his setting up of a pioneer website (firstly as the Multiple Heritage Project, then Mix’d:) to host this discourse, occasioned many opportunities for discussions and, in turn, forged new intersections with Chamion’s and Peter’s research and interests over the space of a decade. The knowledge that we could host the Timeline (the ‘Museum Project’) on Bradley’s website and evaluate it through his relationship with schools in the Manchester area made the timeline project feasible.