Ali received her MA (2007) from the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and her PhD (2013) from the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King’s College London. She has previously worked on a Getty Funded project (2007-2009) to document photographs from Oceania and the Americas at the British Museum, and an exhibition of contemporary Anishinaabe art at the October Gallery in London. She is the editor for the Journal of Museum Ethnography.
Both her masters and PhD theses were on the Indigenous Australian collections at the British Museum. Her PhD, which was an AHRC collaborative doctoral award between King’s College London and the British Museum, compared two collections of Indigenous Australian material culture (Tiwi and Yirandali) housed in the British Museum, focusing on indigenous/settler relations, and indigenous relationships to land.
Following her PhD studies and prior to her appointment at National Museums Scotland she was a post-doctoral research associate on the ERC funded project, ‘Pacific Presences: Oceanic Art and European Museums’ (2013-2018) based at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA), Cambridge. Her research focused on the contemporary salience of museum collections to I-Kiribati, Kiribati armour, and the world cultures collections of Victorian collector Lady Annie Brassey. This was followed by a 12 month Newton Trust Fellowship also based at the MAA during which time she completed her monograph on the history of HMS Royalist and its collecting practices in the Pacific 1890-1893, considering the contemporary resonance of this period of history for Pacific Islanders in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Kiribati. At MAA she curated exhibitions on contemporary Australian art, and Kiribati armour.
She is primary supervisor for the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with the Sainsbury Research Unit 'Imagining the Pacific in Scotland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries: Collectors, Collections, Museums and Universities', and partner investigator on the ARC funded 'Entangled Knowledges: Kaartdijin, Science and History in the Robert Neill collection’ led by Deakin University.
Her current research is focused on Micronesia and Australia where she has a particular focus on art and climate change, and ethnobotanical collections found in anthropology museums.