Research

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Longboat in the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. Photo: S. Arens, 2019.

My research considers fictional and scientific writing, as well as visual culture, produced during and in the aftermath of the Belgian and French colonial projects. For my current British Academy project, 'Constructing a Geopolitics of Nationhood: Belgium's Scientific and Cultural Colonial Project (1830-1858)', I am working on my second monograph, which investigates the role of natural sciences and their exhibition through museums and world fairs as a pathway to better understanding the ideologies that fuelled Belgian colonialism and the resistance against it.  

Focusing on questions of memory, mobility, and space, my first monograph, Imagining Brussels: Memory and Diaspora in Francophone Fiction (under contract with Liverpool University Press), offers a critical investigation of the Belgian capital's representation in Francophone postcolonial literature. It challenges conventional models of Postcolonial Studies that do not sufficiently engage with the existence of Belgium as an imperial power in Africa alongside France and it takes seriously the long-term effects this has had on literature produced in the wake of colonialism and post-war labour migration. 

I also have a keen interest in African critical theory and intellectual history, literary interactions between the 'local' and the 'global', Francophone African writing in the context of transnational and global literary production, and ideas of Francophone African fiction as 'world literature'. I recently had the opportunity to channel this interest into co-editing a special issue of the Irish Journal of French Studies for the 20th anniversary of Achille Mbembe’s On the Postcolony (2020), including my own article on reconfigurations of the grotesque in Alain Mabanckou's African Psycho and Leïla Slimani's Chanson douce as tropes of ‘world literature’.

 

My broader research interests include:

• (Fictional and non-fictional representations of) the First World War in Sub-Saharan Africa

• Nationalism and statehood 

• Critical animal studies, especially theories of animal labour and animal liberation, and Environmental Humanities more broadly

• Jewish history, literary and cultural production in colonial spaces.

Research projects

19 May 2021 - 30 September 2021

AHRC-NERC 'Hidden Histories of Environmental Sciences' Partnership Seed Fund, with Cristina Garcia Perez (PI; Royal Holloway), Chris Pearson (Liverpool), and Sam Solnick (Liverpool).

1 September 2019 - 30 November 2022

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of St Andrews, ‘Constructing a Geopolitics of Nationhood: Belgium’s Scientific and Cultural Colonial Project (1830-1958)’.

1 September 2018 - 31 July 2019

Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, ‘Of Medics and Missionaries: Translation, Science, and Empire in 20th- and 21st-Century Francophone Writing’.

1 September 2013 - 22 March 2017 (viva date)

PhD Scholarship in Francophone Belgian Culture and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), University of Edinburgh, 'Imagining Brussels: Memory, Mobility, and Space in Francophone Diasporic Writing'.

Current active membership of research and reading groups

• Invited member of the newly-founded ‘Colonial Science in the German Empire’ working group, Consortium for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Philadelphia, United States.

• Invited member of the Environmental Humanities reading group, University of Liverpool.

• Member of the Belgian Network for Medical History.