HopeRoad Prize for Postcolonial Literary Studies

New prize: The HopeRoad Prize for Postcolonial Literary Studies

We are delighted to announce that we have welcomed HopeRoad publishers as the newest sponsor of one of our prizes awarded to graduating students in English who demonstrate excellence in specialist fields. HopeRoad provide a generous £50 in books from their catalogue to be divided between the two students whose work demonstrates the best originality and rigour in the field of postcolonial literary studies. Students will be nominated for the prize by their lecturers, and the prize will be awarded at graduation.

HopeRoad Publishing is an exciting, independent publisher, vigorously supporting voices too often neglected by the mainstream. We are promoters of literature with a special focus on Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. At the heart of our publishing is the love of outstanding writing from writers you, the reader, would have otherwise missed.


HopeRoad writers include Pete Kalu, Jean Goulbourne, Maggie Harris, and Jeremy Cameron.

The prize will reward the successful students with some fascinating new reading for the summer but more importantly, the prize will signal exceptional ability in a specialist field which may have a positive impact on applications for Masters courses and funding, PhD research and research funding, and employment. HopeRoad are also looking for new writers to publish: who knows, some of our winners (and, of course, other students and staff) may even go on to publish their academic or creative work with HopeRoad!

Response to ‘Palestine in the Popular Imagination: From Refugees to Negotiators’ (Dr Anastasia Valassopoulos, 22 March 2017) by Georgia Stabler

Dr Anastasia Valassopoulos

‘Palestine in the Popular Imagination: From Refugees to Negotiators’

22 March 2017

by Georgia Stabler


As part of the School of Arts and Humanities English Research Seminar Series Nottingham Trent University welcomed Dr Anastasia Valassopulos, a lecturer in post 1945 world literature at the University of Manchester. Anastasia’s area of research includes postcolonial literature and culture of the Middle East and North Africa. She is also particularly interested in the wider cultural production and reception of Arab women’s film and music. She has worked and published on the revolutionary cinema of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and on the role of Egyptian popular culture in revolutionary contexts. Anastasia’s talk was a highly anticipated event for NTU’s School of Arts and Humanities, not only because of her many notable publications including her first monograph Contemporary Arab Women Writers, but also because she was the PhD supervisor of several faculty members in our very own English department who specialise in postcolonial studies!

Anastasia Valassopoulos’s most recent long term research project maps a visual cultural history of Palestine. The project’s most recent working title is Palestine in the Popular Imagination and it centres on the exploration of materials that established and instituted ways in which Palestine’s continuous presence in the visual imaginary was coordinated. Principally, it aims to investigate how Palestine is perceived, discussed, and consumed in the broader popular imagination.

The project has been organised into four major conceptual eras:

Palestine as the Holy Land (1918-1948)

The Palestinian Refugee (1947-1960s)

Icons of Activism (1960s-1970s)

Cultures of Negotiation (1978-9 & 1993-5)

Visit Palestine

Within these sections that Anastasia outlined in her talk, she explores a wide range of materials including examples of global and international photojournalism, poster art, film, documentary, cartography, photography, and creative outputs produced by humanitarian organizations which have all contributed in creating the lasting images associated with Palestine in the twentieth century. Guiding the investigation of these materials are the socio-cultural moments (listed above) that have framed the presentation of these images. Organised in this way, Anastasia connects the emergence of creative, visual interpretations of Palestine with pertinent political contexts in order to explore the ways in which the Palestinian landscape has been configured within the public imagination. The project investigates Palestine as the Holy Land and the scene of biblical epics; scriptural archaeology at work; information and ‘aid’ films in the run up to partition and the construction of the refugee; the role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); activist cinema and the films of the PLO; cultural representation of international terrorism and finally the visual cultures of ‘negotiation’ and the peace accords. The materials that Anastasia drew attention to in her talk have all played a significant part in the cementing of various iconic visual moments, from poster art through to biblical epics inaugurated in early cinema. They present Palestine as a location of historical and geographical significance, the combination of these artistic and archaeological materials have produced a memorable though highly stylised vision of Palestine as a category primed to accommodate disparate global socio-political needs.

Exodus still

I was particularly struck by Anastasia’s engagement with the idea of scriptural geography and how the landscape of Palestine as the holy land is largely understood and depicted in early Western cinema through biblical images. The talk included film clips of the 1947 documentary Portrait of Palestine which makes the connection between communities of Arab peasants and the bible, likening the fishing nets used by the peasants to the ones Jesus’s disciples fished with, for example. In another clip, taken from the 1960 Hollywood film Exodus Ari Ben Canaan (played by Paul Newman) asks Kitty Fremont (Eva Marie Saint) if she ‘knew her bible’ whilst the pair sit on a Palestinian hillside. He then goes on to point out different areas in view, referencing locations and describing their significance in biblical stories and imagery, thus profiling the area as site of religious and historical importance. The clip provided one example of how Palestine is perceived in the cultural imaginary as the ‘Holy land’, and how external representations of the landscape rely on scriptural geography which is then mapped onto actual locations and living communities. For me, the talk and the materials Anastasia discussed highlighted how Palestine is treated by adherents of Abrahamic religions as a physical manifestation of their faith and made me consider the Arab-Israeli conflict from a different perspective. It also raised some interesting and complex questions concerning concepts of ownership, sovereignty and reflected upon broader issues of colonial enterprise.

Anastasia’s project brings together for the first time a set of symbolic and iconic images and themes that have dominated the visualisation of Palestine internationally in the twentieth century, and also explores their associated values that characterize the sustained and uninterrupted centrality of Palestine in the popular imagination.


Exhibition: In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain – Larissa Sansour (by Mara Sprengel)

In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain
Larissa Sansour

New Art Exchange, 31-41 Gregory Boulevard, Nottingham
15 January – 13 March 2016

by Mara Sprengel

Larissa Mansour

I begin with a disclaimer: I am enamoured with the work of Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour. This lends this piece a certain amount of bias which, to be honest, I am not entirely unhappy about!

Sansour’s work is interdisciplinary. She uses film, photography, installation and sculpture through which she interrogates questions of Palestinian nationhood, territory and identity. Confronted with a situation often described as Kafka-esque or unreal, a hostile present of bureaucratic restrictions of movement and heavily controlled land, resources and airspace, and an increasingly contested past, Sansour turns to the genre of sci-fi in order to further distort reality and to attempt to answer the ‘question’ of Palestine. The collection currently being shown at the New Art Exchange comprises three films: A Space Exodus (2009), Nation Estate (2012) and In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain (2015). Film stills and sculpture installations, including a gang of Palestinauts (2010) which scamper up the walls, offer variety to the exhibition. A poster ‘advertising’ Nation Estate parodies Franz Kraus’ iconic 1936 ‘Visit Palestine’ image, destabilising its intended Zionist and orientalist notions. The works are ideally displayed on black walls which serve to focus attention on the screens and well-lit sculptures whilst also creating an intimacy which envelopes the viewer.

With a running time of just over five minutes, A Space Exodus (2009) is the shortest of the three films. We journey with Sansour as she travels to the moon in order to claim an alternative homeland space for the Palestinians. Elements of traditional Palestinian culture are cleverly intertwined with dominant narratives of space exploration and expansionism. Such narratives, often Western and masculine, are challenged and subverted here by a Middle Eastern female astronaut striking out on her own to claim territory for her people.

Set in a near-future dystopia, Sansour’s Nation Estate (2012) provides a witty but surreal ‘solution’ to Palestinian claims for a nation state and counters the issue of ever-diminishing space in the West Bank. Palestinian sumud [1] and resolute refusal to leave their ancestral homeland has been nightmarishly re-envisioned and as the film progresses we see that a grotesque paradoxical compromise to the issue of territoriality and land ownership in Israel/Palestine has been reached. The Palestinians remain in-situ and maintain a very visible presence in the landscape. However their location is absolute and they are intensely surveilled, ghettoised and prevented from moving outside of a very defined and specific space. All opportunities for contact between Israelis and Palestinians have been removed and the very essence of Palestinian life has been neatly compartmentalised into a sterile and internationalised space. Palestinian identity has been reduced to a series of motifs which figure throughout the short film, with monuments and relics reproduced in a form of Disneyfication, providing a stark contrast to the reality of the occasionally visible ancient landscape ‘outside’.

The confusion of tenses in the title In The Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain (2015) indicates a temporal disruption and, as we travel through time with a self-proclaimed ‘narrative terrorist’, we begin to understand why. As she distributes shards of porcelain decorated with a keffiyeh [2] pattern throughout space and time for future generations to discover, the protagonist seeks to write the Palestinians not only into history but also into time. The viewer is responsible for piecing together the narrative which is offered in the form of layers of historical photographs, film, visual tropes and an oral soundtrack. This allows the film to examine the role of fiction in history and in doing so not only challenges accepted notions of truth and historical entitlement to land but also subverts archaeological strategies utilised by Israeli authorities to legitimise claims to land.

Sansour’s use of sci-fi to produce meaningful and intensely politicised works enables the creation of a potentially limitless and liberating cultural space through which Palestinian identity can be renegotiated and considered. The highly polished aesthetic of her films results in a beauty, despite the disquieting subject matter, and the use of Hollywood tropes and references in her work facilitates cultural interconnectivity and a crossing of boundaries. When the three films are viewed as a collection, ideally in chronological order, you can chart the progression and development of Sansour’s ideas which are crystallised in the final film. I can’t wait to see where her next project leads her and I urge you to take the opportunity to see Sansour’s inventive and challenging work whilst it’s in Nottingham. She will be discussing her practice with curator and critic Nat Muller on 26th February 2015. See you there!

[1] Arabic for ‘steadfastness’ although the wider Palestinian implications of the term are linked to themes of resistance.
[2] Pattern taken from a scarf which is synonymous with Palestinian nationalism.

Further reading:
 Larissa Sansour http://www.larissasansour.com/index.html
 New Art Exchange http://www.nae.org.uk/exhibition/larissa-sansour-in-the-future-they-ate/96
 Makhoul, Bashir, ed., Palestinian Video Art: Constellation of the Moving Image (Palestinian Art Court – al Hoash: Jerusalem, 2013)
 Dabashi, Hamid, Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema (Verso: London, 2007)
 Gertz, Nurith and George Khleifi, Palestinian Cinema: Landscape, Trauma, and Memory (Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, 2008)

Response to Kehinde Andrews ‘Blackness, radicalism and activism’ (Fran Hajat)

Response to Kehinde Andrews, ‘Blackness, radicalism and activism

by Fran Hajat

4 January 2016








Dr Kehinde Andrews joined the NTU Postcolonial Studies Centre to give a talk on Black Radicalism and how it fuels a movement towards a new global identity. This identity is linked through a global diaspora and is rooted in difference that is not based on western constructs of race. Racial difference has been a cornerstone of Western Imperialism and dominance and was an excuse for the slavery and genocide of indigenous tribes and peoples around the world. Racial science is one construct of difference but there are others. The first Europeans in Africa were regarded by the Africans as different, but this difference was not based on racial categorisation.  Similarly when Africans made contact with Arabs and others there was an understanding of dissimilitude between cultures. Black radicalism moves beyond the use of racial categorisation as a means of defining difference, instead choosing to acknowledge difference. In doing so Blackness becomes an identity that is embraced.

The idea of Blackness stems back to Malcolm X who defined himself as ‘a new type of negro – a black man’. This rejects the old school of thinking that accepts the subjugation of black people in a European history. It becomes a radical way of thinking which links the African diaspora on a global scale. Kehinde spoke of a common bond between those within the African Diaspora, a historical bond that is grounded not through physicality and blood but through a different connection –  Spiritual Ancestry. Sub-Saharan African religions all operate under the schema of Ancestral worship.  Ancestral spirits are considered to be alive and are very much a function of  daily life.  This is opposed to Western perception of ancestors who are seen as dead.  Kehinde admits this is an undertheorized concept, but I believe it has potential to provide a interrelationship between those caught within the African Diaspora and their connections still in Africa.

In order to work, Black Nationalism needs to move away from the Nation-state and claim a Global Nationalism. For this to happen black nationalists need to rethink their roles within the nation-state. National politics is important – the day to day role of an activist helps change the dynamics of power on a local level but becoming part of Global Nation requires a dramatic shift in the way politics is perceived. Kehinde believes that black nationalism cannot be narrow – entirely focused on the nation state, nor can it be based on Cultural Nationalism. Both are limiting and are not radical in any form. Eventually Radical Blackness aspires to the overthrow the capitalist state and culminates in an African revolution. I believe that in order for any revolution to arise from Africa, African nations and the people that inhabit these nations need to overcome their lack of collective unity. They need to free themselves from Western labels and take on a new identity, a new title: Who knows, perhaps it will be Black.

Sara Ahmed on Audre Lorde and Self-Care at the University of Kent (Veronika Schuchter)

Sara Ahmed on Audre Lorde and Self-Care at the University of Kent

by Veronika Schuchter

17 December 2015


“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

(Audre Lorde in A Burst of Light)


In celebration of Audre Lorde’s work and legacy, as well as the book launch of Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies, edited by Stella Bolaki and Sabine Broeck (http://www.umass.edu/umpress/title/audre-lorde’s-transnational-legacies), Sara Ahmed gave a lecture at the University of Kent on 10 December.

As a self-proclaimed lover of words, she says she follows them around and finds inspiration in companion texts (texts that allow her to see things differently). Her lecture was accompanied by two such textual companions: Audre Lorde’s (of course!) and George Eliot’s work which she used to explore the concept of fragility with regard to objects, relations and bodies that evening.

Lorde’s legacy continues to inspire Ahmed’s own writing and for her, a legacy, too, can be a lifeline. For Audre Lorde, as Sara Ahmed pointed out in her talk, life is protest. This is particularly reflected in A Burst of Light in which Lorde writes about her battle with cancer and draws parallels between fighting her illness and her fight against anti-black racism; making the incredibly important point that looking after oneself and after one’s own happiness is not an act of selfishness but rather an indispensable responsibility in order to be able to care for others and continue to work and to fight. This always makes me think of the flight safety demonstrations in which you are reminded to put on your oxygen mask before you help anyone else – self-preservation and caring for one’s own health and emotional well-being are essential, especially for a radical feminist praxis, because “feminism needs feminists to survive; and feminists need feminism to survive.”

Central to Ahmed’s lecture was the powerful and recurring image of a/the wall reminding us that through the act of “speaking of walls, a wall comes up”, that “a wall can be an atmosphere, a gesture” and, most importantly, that walls are not always visible to everyone since for “those who do not come against it, the wall does not exist.” In that she specifically addressed how less abled bodies can become walls, how walls can come up between people and how some relations(hips) are celebrated and others openly devalued. Sara Ahmed’s work continues to be a much needed and at times uncomfortable (even more important!) reminder to check one’s own privilege in a world that is persistently imbalanced. Even though we “learn making from breaking” we must not break/be broken in the process of standing up, speaking up and fighting against (systemic) inequalities but allow fragility to be seen as generative as Audre Lorde did; since for her fragility did not equal the loss of hardness, they do not cancel each other out.

As an avid, grateful and inspired reader of Ahmed’s, I was eager to also hear her in person and I found confirmed what I already knew: that her work is not only of outstanding theoretical quality but also wonderfully relatable and usable, especially outside the academic discourse.

Let’s all look after ourselves and each other better!


Anyone interested in reading more on Sara Ahmed’s work (on Audre Lorde), should have a look at her wonderful blog feministkilljoys (www.feministkilljoys.com) or her twitter (@SaraNAhmed). The lecture was recorded and there should be a podcast available at some point by the Centre for Gender, Sexuality and Writing at the University of Kent: https://www.kent.ac.uk/english/research/centres/gswcentre.html

Response:‘Africa in Oceania: Thinking Besides the Subaltern’ (Sofia Aatkar)

Response to research seminar by Dr Robbie Shilliam, QMUL, ‘Africa in Oceania: Thinking Besides the Subaltern’

by Sofia Aatkar, MRes English Literary Research

8 December 2015


This fortnight’s postcolonial speaker was Dr. Robbie Shilliam from Queen Mary, University of London. He delivered a powerful seminar, which was described afterwards by a fellow student as ‘poetic’, regarding the reparation of colonial injustice through anti-colonial connectivity among colonised and formally colonised peoples in the context of the South Pacific and the African diaspora, and queried the usefulness of the subaltern figure in accomplishing this.

Dr. Shilliam suggested that retrieving networks between colonised and formally colonised peoples can be achieved by connecting to the places that were left untouched by Cook and Columbus; namely, the spiritual domain. Shilliam argues that, because colonisation did not (and never could) breech this spiritual domain, these hinterlands could be used as a ground for re-establishing connectivity, and subsequently can actively repair the wounds of colonialism, reconnect black individuals and decolonise lands, ancestors and agencies. Shilliam exemplified this phenomenon in his discussion of the Māori people in New Zealand. He stated that the conception of time in Māori culture differs from that of modern, linear time, in which a future-centric view is adopted and the past is forgotten. Instead, Māori people believe that the past is a source of knowledge which should be remembered and drawn upon, which is typified by the phrase ‘the ancestors are meeting because we have met’.[1] In this light, it makes sense that the Māori word ‘muri’ connotes ‘future’ (verb) and ‘behind’ (location).[2] And thus, one way in which Māori people could forge connections across the African diaspora and adopt a decolonising ethos is by looking to the future through their shared past.

The term ‘subaltern’ commonly refers to specific struggles in colonial India. However, it has been noted that:

subaltern is not just a category that affects given sectors of the population of one single nation-state, but a category of the imperial and modern/colonial world that affects people and regions in a global distribution of wealth and meaning.[3]
Accordingly, ‘subaltern’ can also be used as an intellectual category to describe individuals or groups who exist outside the hegemonic framework of colonial power. Consequently, Shilliam suggests that in order for colonial and formally colonised peoples, or the subalterns, to connect through the spiritual domain, they need to cast ‘sideways glances’[4] instead of reflecting Western epistemology and thought production. In other words, they need to look backwards at their pre-colonial pasts in order to establish a decolonised future.

Personally, I found Dr. Shilliam’s seminar refreshing as he did not simply promote a specific collective national identity in an attempt at decolonisation, but instead suggests that a transnational identity is forged between colonised and formally colonised individuals through profound metaphysical connections, irrespective of an individual’s nationality. This view, in my opinion, promotes a more productive and empowering lens through which to examine postcolonial identities as such a global infrastructure invests a deeper connection among colonised and formally colonised peoples because it transcends geographical and historical boundaries.

Shilliam - coffee


Māori Dictionary, ‘Muri’, < http://maoridictionary.co.nz/word/4283  > [accessed             03.12.2015]

Mignolo, Walter D. ‘On Subalterns and Other Agencies’, Postcolonial Studies, 8.4 (2005),             381-407

Shilliam, Robbie, ‘Africa in Oceania: Thinking Besides the Subaltern’, <             http://theoryculturesociety.org/article-robbie-shilliam-on-africa-in-oceania-thinking            besides-the-subaltern/ > [accessed 03.12.2015]


[1] Robbie Shilliam, ‘Africa in Oceania: Thinking Besides the Subaltern’, < http://theoryculturesociety.org/article-robbie-shilliam-on-africa-in-oceania-thinking-besides-the-subaltern/ > [accessed 03.12.2015] (para. 1 of 14).

[2] Māori Dictionary, ‘Muri’, < http://maoridictionary.co.nz/word/4283  > [accessed 03.12.2015].

[3] Walter D. Mignolo, ‘On Subalterns and Other Agencies’, Postcolonial Studies, 8.4 (2005), 381-407 (p.386).

[4] Robbie Shilliam, ‘Africa in Oceania’ (para. 9 of 14).

Belief and Faith, The Social Place of Worship, Prayer and Meditation, by Bogumila Korba and Robyn Evans

The Spatial Enlightenment of The Senses: Belief and Faith, The Social Place of Worship, Prayer and Meditation

Do people make places or do places make people?

by Bogumila Korba and Robyn Evans

26 November 2015

Starting in July 2015, we undertook a SPUR (Scholarship Project for Undergraduate Research) in partnership with NTU and the head of the Photography degree Max Kandhola, who had proposed the project.







The project was an exploration of Sikh and Muslim places of worship in Nottingham. Through our academic and visual research, we discovered the relationship between faith and places of worship within Nottingham’s community and surroundings.  Mapping locations, doing fieldwork and historical research into human geography and postcolonial migration, we looked at issues of belonging and adapting, whilst drawing upon ideas of the ‘other’.

Eventually, we went into the different places to gain further information and, of course, to take photographs! Working with the local communities and religious leaders, we intended to photograph the interior and exterior of each building in order to represent the communities who live near, and pray within them. Our main goal was to capture the aura of each site in order for a viewer who has never personally experienced such a place to be able to grasp an idea of it.

An integral part of our project was the fact that we were not interested in photographing people, just the architecture and feeling of each place of worship and its surroundings. We wanted to capture the essence of a building, shaped by a community without directly photographing the community.

Jamia Masjid Sultania Mosque

Jamia Masjid Sultania Mosque


Sri Nabh Kanwal Raja Sahib Ji Gurdwara

Sri Nabh Kanwal Raja Sahib Ji Gurdwara

Nottingham is a multicultural city with population of 310,837 (2011 census). There are approx. 27,000 Muslims and 4,312 Sikhs.  There are 25 official worship sites for Muslim groups and seven Sikh Gurdwaras. The Muslim community of Nottingham predominantly originates from Pakistan and the Sikh population originates mainly from India (2011 census). Both groups came to UK in the 1950s and 60s, part of a countrywide influx of postcolonial migrants.

When these groups migrated, they brought traditions, values, culture, religion and language. After over 50 years, their presence has become embedded into modern society but is still visibly distinct. The languages, traditional forms of dress, foods and architecture have transformed Nottingham into a colourful, some might say ‘exotic’, but most importantly a very interesting European City.

Madni Masjid

Madni Masjid

From the very beginning of our research, an astonishing fact was discovered – the human geography of Nottingham is divided into areas predominated by religious groups. This fact is not always obvious at first sight.

surrounding madni masjid

The question: ‘Do places make people or do people make places?’ was constantly on our minds. Only one building was purposefully built to be a site of worship – the Nurani Jami Masjid Mosque in St. Ann’s, which is also the biggest mosque in Nottingham and a part of it is still under construction. The rest of the religious buildings tended to be converted buildings, a mosque that was previously a pub, many converted shops, warehouses and schools, and both Mosques and Gurdwaras, which were, previously churches.

Sites of worship would be built for the need of the community, some buildings more basic and sparse than others, some virtually empty most days, others a hub for the community – providing resources and services for the surrounding communities, the people shaped and made the place.

Jamia Masjid Sultania Mosque

Jamia Masjid Sultania Mosque

Surrounding area

Surrounding area










Gaining access to these sites proved problematic on some occasions. Many places immediately declined our request to gain entry. One on particular occasion we came up against an individual who became both defensive and rude at the sight of us – this is something which we realised was inevitable when we started this project but it was still unnerving. Another problem we frequently came up against was being subject to a strong bias throughout conversation, something that made it hard to remain neutral and professional. Language and educational barriers made it near impossible sometimes to ask the questions we desired to have answered.







Our project coincided with Ramadan, which meant the mosques were bustling with life and busy which was amazing to see but did also mean that we struggled to get access to all of them.  So having access to some of them, despite the inconvenient time, was great and very interesting but also an enlightening experience for us.

Overall, the project produced over 100 images and a contextual research file. We were enlightened by the experience of being welcomed into a community we had never previously encountered. Being presented with multiple opportunities within the community and the art world following the end of project has also been both exciting and rewarding.


Jamia Masjid Sultania Mosque

Jamia Masjid Sultania Mosque

Jamia Masjid Sultania Mosque

Jamia Masjid Sultania Mosque










Pakistan centre

Pakistan centre

sri guru singh gurdwara

sri guru singh gurdwara










©  Photographs and Text: Bogumila Korba and Robyn Evans, 2015


Response: The Process of Post-Traumatic Growth in Fostering Agency and Activism (Laura Blackie)

The Process of Post-Traumatic Growth in Fostering Agency and Activism among Survivors of the Genocide in Rwanda

Response to talk by Dr Laura Blackie delivered at NTU, 4 November 2015

by Sofia Aatkar, MRes English Literary Research, NTU

23 November 2015

About Post-Traumatic Growth

Dr. Laura Blackie, a social psychologist from the University of Nottingham (UoN), visited Nottingham Trent to deliver a seminar regarding what she terms ‘post-traumatic growth’ (PTG) in the context of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. She began by describing an ongoing project at the UoN, of which she plays a part: ‘Rwandan Stories of Change’. This project qualitatively assesses PTG within survivors of the Rwandan genocide through lengthy interviews conducted with these individuals. PTG is defined as ‘a positive psychological change experienced through the struggle with highly challenging circumstances’, and is measured through aspects such as personal strength, new possibilities, appreciation of life, improved relationships and spirituality. Dr. Blackie made plain that PTG occurs in conjunction with pain, sorrow and loss, and that PTG is not an inevitable outcome when individuals have undergone immense distress.  After this disclaimer, the themes of PTG were listed, namely: elevated status of the individual from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor’, an increased responsibility to live, and heightened agency and sense of activism.

The Benefits

Dr. Blackie voiced that Rwandan Stories of Change aims to re-knit post-genocide Rwandan society by encouraging survivors to share their experiences, which, in turn, creates an invaluable support network for the participating individuals. She went on to suggest that one of the consequences of this unitedness is that it promotes a new, collective Rwandan identity, as opposed to the previous divide of Tutsis and Hutus. This, as Dr. Blackie proposed, then encourages Rwandan citizens to look to the future and aim for a peaceful co-existence rather than dwelling on their heart-wrenching past. Moreover, it could be implied that PTG, and thus Rwandan Stories of Change, is productive way of assessing how a formerly politically unstable country can achieve reconciliation after a tragic national incident.

I would like to suggest that Rwandan Stories of Change operates on both a micro and a macro level; for, on a micro level it assists people to exercise their individual agencies to work past a traumatic event, and on a macro level, it helps a wounded country heal its psychological scars. This project can serve as a reminder to us all that help on an individual level can indeed impact the bigger picture – something which is key in the wake of events such as the Rwandan genocide.

Things to Consider

When the subject of ethnic genocide is mentioned, one cannot help but think of the Holocaust (1933-1945) in which approximately six million Jewish people were killed. In a similar fashion to Rwandan Stories of Change, The Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association (HSFA) works to support and provide friendship for holocaust survivors. In addition, HSFA is a medium through which survivors of the holocaust can share their stories with later generations, and the association aims to utilise these stories in order to work towards a more tolerant society by educating people that diversity should be celebrated. I would like to conclude by tentatively suggesting that this could be more fruitful approach for Rwandan Stories of Change, for it is worth acknowledging that, within a country, there will always be ethnic difference, especially in an increasingly globalised world. Therefore, in an attempt towards ensuring such an atrocious event will not repeat itself, it may be worth looking to educate Rwandan citizens that ethnic difference does not equate to inequality, rather than encouraging a Pan-Rwandan identity.


Stories of Change link: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/clas/departments/french/research/rwandan-stories-of-change.aspx

Background information on the genocide: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13431486

Holocaust Learning Link: http://holocaustlearning.org/about


Photographs by Georgia Stabler

Introducing Postcolonial Theory to the year 9 Classroom

Our former BA (Hons) English student Felistas discusses a project she ran at Holy Family Catholic School, 14-16th July 2015, to introduce year 9 pupils to postcolonial, feminist and Marxist theories. Felistas is currently undertaking postgraduate study at the University of Oxford. Read Felistas’s blog here:  http://www.felicityslore.blogspot.co.uk/


by Felistas Nobenkosi Ndebele

Felistas Ndebele and year 13 pupils

Felistas Ndebele and year 9 pupils








I moved to England at the age of five, although coming from a country where English is an official language, my English was not as advanced as my counterparts in this country. Upon arrival my teacher advised my mother to only speak to me in English and stop using Ndebele and Zulu to communicate with me. She refused. I am so grateful she did. Instead my mother turned to a different method, I had always loved hearing bedtime stories, my mother’s voice was very soothing, still is in fact. She would often tell me stories in our native tongue that her mother had told her. One night she told me that I would now read bedtime stories in English to her, whilst at first I disapproved of this method, I grew to appreciate then love this tradition with my mother. Thus my love of reading was born. That is one of my earliest memories, thus I often tell people I have always loved reading. Thanks to my mother’s rebellion from my year one teacher’s advice and her innovation, by the time I was six, I had the reading age of an eleven year old. From then my love of reading only grew, consequently I thoroughly enjoyed English lessons along with other classes including Maths . I didn’t always know I would study English in university, but looking back now it was one of the greatest decisions I ever made. Studying English has not only improved my communication skills but in general has made me more culturally aware, something necessary in the diverse world we live in. Studying English at university allowed me to learn that literature was diverse, and that not all literature was written by Europeans. That is one thing I can fault about the education system – often many children grow up with that myth.

This summer I went back to my former school to change that. Growing up I always loved school and rarely missed a day at school; as a result my school played a fundamental role in shaping me to be the person I am today. Holy Family is a great school with even better teachers who are passionate about what they do. So when planning my event I could not think of a better place to start.

I devised the Isocrates wider reading program in in order to encourage students to read books, which aren’t often present in the national curriculum.

With the help of my childhood friends we conceived a plan to work with key stage three students (year nine students) for three days in July. We introduce the children to literary theories including Marxism, Feminism and Postcolonialism.  When the children where asked to sign up, out of all the classes Postcolonialism proved to be the most popular. Thorough the project we familiarized the children with the theories and examples of texts, which collate with theorists’ ideas. Although the course heavily focused on the literary criticism of the former, we also taught the children how each theory related to society and its history.

There were about 70 children involved in the project. When we first met the children, most had been selected for the program. So not all where so keen to participate but after the first awareness meeting, the children seemed excited. It only got better as the program continued, each day the children where more interested, became better learners, social and literary critics. Another highlight was seeing the children realizing the power of literature and that most literary texts often have a social message. It was really interesting to see the thoughts of these year nine students, who where mostly 13 years old and ranged in ability. They all did so well in understanding these theories. It was amazing to witness the children grow in that short space of time, learning about theories and placing them in the context of their own lives, and thus assessing what role they play in society. I hope the children continue to explore other theories and texts outside of the curriculum and that they continue to realize the power one individual holds simply in their beliefs.

This experience has also aided me. As a literary critic, you are always growing and learning, being around such astute, creative and intelligent children was a great honour for which I must thank them, their school and their parents. Being around the children allowed me to reconsider these theories allowing for my knowledge to not only be strengthened but to grow. This knowledge will undoubtedly serve as helpful in my future studies.

We hope this programme is the first of many and one which can be extended across Waltham Forest and other boroughs of London. As a start-up charity, we couldn’t have done without the major support we received not only from our sponsors and the school but our two volunteers, double award winning actor Nathan Hector and the amazing Nego True who is a poet now on a sold out tour. I am so thankful for their time. I also have to say thank you to my team including my Vice President Mr Kalm Paul-Christian, and my Marxist coordinator Elliott Lazarus. We would also like to thank our local MP Stella Creasy for her support, who regretfully couldn’t attend the program but sent her profuse apologies and hopes to support our charity in future endeavours with our community.


Photograph copyright and permissions held by Felistas Ndebele.

Events and Situations: ‘Our Nadia, in Defense of Memory’ by Cornelia Grabner

Click on the link below to access Dr. Grabner’s material:

Events and Situations: ‘Our Nadia, in Defense of Memory’

Excerpt from ‘Situations and Events: Intensifications of State Violence in Mexico’, presented 7th October 2015 at the Postcolonial Studies Centre Speakers’ Series at Nottingham Trent University

Dr. Cornelia Gräbner, Lancaster University

***Please note that this text was written for the purpose of providing structure and pointers for oral presentation, and is only slightly adapted to the written format. Please don’t quote from this text without previous permission of the author.***