On Translations: Events at Nottingham Contemporary

Join our Nottingham Contemporary friends and colleagues for a series of events on translation in February, and for a book launch in January:

Book launch of Undead Uprising, the latest by artist John Cussans (Ruskin, University of Oxford), where Andy Asquith (Postdoc at University of Nottingham) will be in conversation with John. John’s work revolves around the Haitian revolution, zombies and voodoo.
Conference – On Translations
17th Feb 10am-5pm
This one-day event of talks and performances brings together artists and scholars to explore the cultural and political contradictions that arise in processes of translation.
The conference aims to question the ambiguities embedded in translation, ranging from the erasure of languages and epistemologies by colonialism, to contemporary transnational and globalised connections.
Speakers include: Andrew Goffey, Dima Hamadeh, Fehras Publishing Practices, Ghazal Mosadeq, Quinsy Gario, Rana Hamadeh, Stefan Nowotny, and more…
Seminar (16th Feb) with Rolando Vazquez ‘Translation as Erasure’ 


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.


Response to: Maxim Bolt, ‘Mediated Paternalism and Violent Incorporation: Enforcing Farm Hierarchies on the Zimbabwean-South African Border’ (by Fran Hajat)

Response to: Maxim Bolt, ‘Mediated Paternalism and Violent Incorporation: Enforcing Farm Hierarchies on the Zimbabwean-South African Border’

by Fran Hajat

23 May 2016

Dr. Maxim Bolt spent eight months residing on one of the citrus farms that line the Zimbabwean/South African border. This is an area where people struggle to make a living or even survive – a situation that is based on large scale migration, transience and mass unemployment. Migrants crossing the Limpopo endure gangs who will rob, rape, or traffic, and steal from them. Either that or suffer at the hands of border soldiers and police whose offers of protection are often overshot with violence. Border police are known to demand sexual favours from apprehended women if they want to be released from custody. If and when these migrants are able to find employment they strive to obtain a sense of permanence as farm labourers in a place where everyday violence is still very much a factor albeit hidden from the outside world.

In a post-apartheid society the all-white farm owners and management would like the rest of the world to believe that paternalism has been swapped for a corporate-management style. The reality is these farms are governed by a hegemonic mix of paternalism and violence where white authority is never questioned. Top of the management chain are white superordinate patriarchs who delegate responsibility through black subordinate patriarchs. The racialized paternalism associated with pre-apartheid farm owners meant the owners had veritable carte blanch within their ‘little republics,’ and was often harsh and coercive environments. Today the border farmers try to expunge their vilified history by distancing themselves from their workers. Instead farm owners rely on senior black male workers or elders to govern and handle disputes amongst workers. These elders hold courts, can invoke vigilante justice and call on the coercive power of state employed border guards mete out justice to their subordinates and dependants.  Although seemingly removed from the day to day dealings of the labour force, white farmers use senior black workers to enforce farm hierarchies and as such both condone the use of violence and profit from it. Senior workers have no choice but to use vigilante justice if they are to keep their job and maintain their lifestyles.  These farm hierarchies are ordered along racial lines: White managers rarely enter the compound and have access to the tea room and the farmhouse – areas that are off limits to black workers.  Black managers are subordinate to their white counterparts. Farm workers sign for their payslips with fingerprints, regardless of their educational level.

The citrus farmers’ attempt to disassociate themselves from their past and adopt a new corporate style of farm management is in part driven by global markets. Buyers on the international market include British supermarkets who are more aware of workers’ rights and advocate Black Economic Empowerment.  By adopting a more corporate look and feel, owners seek to integrate themselves into the Global market and make themselves more attractive to buyers and consumers.

‘If One Finger Brought Oil’ – A Book Report on Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (by George Coleby)

‘If One Finger Brought Oil’ – A Book Report on Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

by George Coleby

4 May 2016

George Coleby is a second year on NTU’s BA International Relations and is a student intern at the Postcolonial Studies Centre in Spring 2016.

Possibly the most iconic work of Postcolonial literature, Things Fall Apart by Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe is a story of one man’s experience with a changing world. Published in 1958 during a tumultuous period of decolonisation in the continent, the parallels between the protagonist’s experiences and Achebe’s own, are evident throughout the novel. Set in the late 19th century on the cusp of the ‘Scramble for Africa’, the small tribe of Umuofia in Igboland (what is now Nigeria), live by the ancient traditions and cultural customs that have developed and been passed down through generations for centuries. The novel is centred around the life of Okonkwo, a violent and fiercely proud man who is known across Igboland for his feats of strength and physical prowess after throwing legendary wrestler ‘The Cat’ in a historic bout. Throughout the novel Okonkwo fervently clings to the belief that a man is the direct measure of his successes and it is his duty to overcome the weaknesses of placidity and idleness.

Achebe introduces the story with an account of Okonkwo’s fabled victory over undefeated wrestler, The Cat, in which 10,000 spectators celebrate the triumph, likening it to the mythological origin of their town in which the founder ‘engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights’ – forever binding Okonkwo to the traditional identity of the Igbo people. The fight was also memorialised for Okonkwo as the struggle that freed him from a life of poverty and transformed into a titled man of land and reverence. This concept of struggle and competition in Igbo society as the only vehicle for great achievement and success becomes the first defining aspect of Okonkwo’s character, and a catalyst for his ultimate fate later in the novel. This understanding of the relationship between suffering and reward in Igbo society, echoes the sentiment in colonial Nigeria during Achebe’s initial creative years, in that only through the struggle of decolonisation can Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, achieve true, tangible success in the global village.

Much of Okonkwo’s character is a result of his relationship with his father, Unoka who, contrary to his son was a gentle, peace loving man who embraced a life of hedonism and personal satisfaction. Throughout his life, Unoka had accrued large debts as a result of his love for palm wine and music and a general disdain for toil and hard work. Okonkwo loathed his father’s inactivity and the memory of his death as a penniless and disreputable man haunted him. This fear is another central instigator of Okonkwo’s ruthlessly driven nature, as Achebe writes ‘His whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and weakness’. For Okonkwo this fear was ‘deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw’. A particularly pertinent line in the novel is the phrase ‘red in tooth and claw’ taken from the Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem ‘In Memoriam A.H.H’ – showing Achebe’s awareness of both African and European literary styles and acknowledging the intervention colonial-era Europe has had on modern African identity.

Okonkwo’s aggressive and obstinate nature eventually leads to his exile as he commits three transgressions against Igbo traditions. Firstly, he savagely beats his wife during the Week of Peace, in which all violence is prohibited, and even tries to shoot her, shattering the principles of the cultural festival. Secondly, Okonkwo is directed by the village elders to sacrifice the young boy who had been placed in his care after a peace accord with a neighbouring village, a boy who had grown to call him father. Despite being advised not to take part in the ritual, Okonkwo ultimately does the killing himself because ‘he was afraid of being thought weak’. In an act of cruel irony, it is the accidental murder of a man at a funeral when Okonkwo’s gun explodes, that leads to his eventual exile from the village. It is during his exile that Okonkwo’s last friend questions the morals behind so harsh a punishment for an accidental transgression to which Achebe writes ‘If one finger brought oil, it soiled the others’, a proverb that summarises the communal nature of Igbo tradition and its attitudes towards those who break it. Okonkwo had infringed upon tradition and so he must be exiled or else the entire tribe would suffer for his indiscretion. It is this desire or perhaps fear to keep the community strong and untainted at any cost, that eventually lead the people of Umuofia to reject Okonkwo and with him, the essence of their ancient traditions.

Achebe then introduces the key driver of the novel’s theme of change, as Christian missionaries from the British Empire arrive in Igboland and begin rapidly reshaping its society. Okonkwo’s first encounter with the missionaries occurs whilst he is still in exile in which his first born son, Nwoye, who never subscribed to his father’s rigid view of masculinity, becomes influenced by the western teachings, to which his father responds typically with violence, thereby inadvertently driving Nwoye to convert to Christianity under the name of Isaac. Once Okonkwo returns from exile to find that a missionary church has been constructed in Umuofia and many of the tribespeople had been converted as well, he once again urges violence and resistance against these new changes. As events continue, a boiling point is eventually reached when Okonkwo beheads a western messenger to galvanize the community and repel the foreign invaders, but he is denied by his townsfolk and he realises his cause is lost. When British authorities arrive the next day to arrest him they find that he has hung himself, a potent taboo in Igbo culture that renders the body evil and means that it cannot be touched or buried with his clansmen. In the end, it is the British men who bury Okonkwo, the man who so embodied yet also denigrated the identity of the Igbo people.

Achebe finally closes the book by revealing the British Commissioner’s thoughts on what he has witnessed, including the man who had killed a messenger and then hung himself, to which he concludes that the story would warrant ‘perhaps not a chapter but a reasonable paragraph’. A damning and insignificant culmination for the textured character that the reader follows throughout the novel. In these final moments of the book Achebe displays the intrinsic dehumanisation that shadowed colonisation into Africa and indeed the rest of the world and the flawed perception that occurs when the privileged view ‘the other’. As a novel, Things Fall Apart has rightly been embraced for its retelling of the disastrous colonisation of the African continent and its failure to see human beings as human beings. But of course for the reader, Okonkwo and his story is not just a paragraph but a lesson to help us see the other with more compassion and complexity, it helps us to view each other without distorted perspective and to question those traditional institutions and cultural norms that can define a society. As Achebe writes in one of his later novels ‘Igbo people say, if you want to see it well, you must not stand in one place’.

Response to Simon Faulkner, ‘Constructing Pallywood: Photography, veracity, and denigration in Israel/Palestine’ (by George Coleby)

Response to Simon Faulkner, ‘Constructing Pallywood: Photography, veracity, and denigration in Israel/Palestine’, 16 March 2016

by George Coleby

4 May 2016

George Coleby is a second year on NTU’s BA International Relations and is a student intern at the Postcolonial Studies Centre in Spring 2016.


Political Art in Palestine

Dr Simon Faulkner, senior lecturer in Art History at the Manchester School of Art, visited NTU’s Postcolonial Studies Centre and gave an enlightening lecture on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict through the lens of visual art and photography. In both the contemporary and ancient worlds, The Levant has been the host of intense factional fighting as well as deep divisions along religious, cultural and ethnic lines. Today, the regional dispute is still ongoing as the modern states of Israel and Palestine repeatedly clash, both socially and violently, making headlines and front page images the world over. This cultural collision has created resounding ripples in the fields of art and photography that exist within the troubled region, shaping the experiences of the people who live inside it.

Tel Aviv based artist David Reeb has witnessed this struggle first hand and reflects his experiences in his work. His 1997 painting ‘All the Colours of the Rainbow’ features an image of Israeli tanks patrolling the West Bank city of Ramallah, above a second image of British sculptor, Henry Moore’s, three piece sculpture outside the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, highlighting the contrast between the region’s instability and its lesser recognised high culture. The two scenes are separated by a straight black line invoking a stark commentary on the strict political divisions of the historic land and the typical experiences of Israelis and Palestinians living on either side of the area’s physical as well as more intangible divides. Dr Faulkner commented on how Reeb has rejected the term ‘political artist’ stating that his paintings are not constructed as clear-cut political statements but rather as a more complex representation of his own experiences, thereby challenging the idea that the connection between politics and art is a straightforward relationship.

Many artists and culture-makers have labelled these works of art as a form of activism and protest against the region’s struggles, in an attempt to bring to light the themes of occupation, displacement and segregation. Palestinian artist, Khaled Hourani, embodied these ideals in his project ‘Picasso in Palestine’ in which he successfully established the loan of Pablo Picasso’s ‘Buste de Femme’ from Van Abbemuseum in The Netherlands to the then widely unknown International Academy of Art-Palestine in Ramallah, in Israeli occupied West Bank. Loaning a piece as significant as an original Picasso is usually only reserved for the world’s highest profile museums and galleries, so to bring it to occupied Palestine has been called a supreme act of protest and legitimacy for the unrecognised state.

The international collective, ActiveStills, is a community of photographers and documenters based in Israel and Palestine, who use their talents as a vehicle to promote social and political change in the region. ActiveStills have archived many images and accounts of protest, demonstration and violence between Palestinian activists and Israeli authorities in cities such as Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Bil’in. One such account from the outskirts of Bethlehem detailed the passage of hundreds of Palestinian workers through a checkpoint in the wall that separates them from Jerusalem. These restrictions to non-Israeli communities have generated protests in West Bank border towns, most notably in Bil’in where the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) was regularly deployed to quell demonstrations that had escalated into violence. Dr Faulkner spoke of how the images taken by ActiveStills were being used by protestors on both sides of the conflict in an effort to achieve social justice.

As it is, it seems the historic region’s troubles show no signs of abating, however due to the efforts of these few artists and gallerists the social consequences and the individual experiences of the people directly affected by it, will be preserved. The authenticity of the conflict as it will inevitably be portrayed by international media outlets and social networks, will be protected from alterations for political agendas or factional propaganda, by these true to life images and works. Dr Faulkner illustrated how the relationship between art and politics is two sided, as it is the international crisis that largely inspired the aforementioned artists and their pieces but also as the art and high culture can be used as a vessel for social justice in the region’s turbulent political battleground.





Response to Alberto Carbajal, Between Gang and Family: Queering Ethnicity and British Muslim Masculinities in Sally El Hosaini’s My Brother the Devil (by Wendy Norman, 27 April 2016)

Response to Alberto Carbajal, Between Gang and Family: Queering Ethnicity and British Muslim Masculinities in Sally El Hosaini’s My Brother the Devil

by Wendy Norman

April 27 2016

Recently, Dr Alberto Carbajal presented his paper, ‘Between Gang and Family: Queering Ethnicity and British Muslim Masculinities in Sally el Hosaini’s My Brother the Devil’ at NTU’s Postcolonial Studies Centre. Carbajal demonstrated how Hosaini’s film challenges typical perceptions of homosexuality and masculinity, as well as ethnicity. The narrative of My Brother the Devil (2012) follows Mo and Rashin, brothers of Egyptian heritage living in Hackney. Rashin leaves his gang and stops selling low-level drunks in order to have a relationship with Sayyid, a French photographer. Jealous of Rashin and Sayyid’s friendship, Mo joins Rashin’s gang as a dealer. Growing ever more suspicious of Rashin and Sayyid’s closeness, Mo goes to Sayyid’s home to see the two men undressed together and realises the true extent of their relationship. Mo continues to become more involved in the gang and upon Rashin finding Mo’s stash of money and drugs, makes a deal with his former gang, agreeing that Mo can leave the gang in exchange of killing a member of a rival gang. The gang discovers Rashin and Sayyid’s homosexual relationship and plans to kill them. In the cross-fire, Mo is shot while protecting his brother.

Although he primarily queered ethnicity and masculinity, I found Carbajal’s demonstration of how My Brother the Devil queers the notion of ‘home’ and ‘family’ an especially interesting concept. Even though the members of the gang are from different ethnicities, they call each other ‘bruv’, ‘cuz’ and ‘fam’, short for brother, cousin, and family. The gang’s notion of ‘family’ seems to transcend biology and ethnicity, showing that these men can choose their family. This, in turn, queers the very notion of ‘family’, a group of people who typically live together, and are bonded through biology or marriage. Moreover, Carbajal queers ethnicity further because London in My Brother the Devil does not belong to one ethnicity. Instead, London belongs to a large group of people from disparate places and ethnicities to the point where ethnicity becomes meaningless. Therefore, we can see that the presentation of London in the film is a site of queering ethnicity and this queering gives a sense of rootedness to all ethnicities.

It is refreshing to see a sympathetic view of young people, especially those like Mo and Rashin, who are on the margins of society. El Hosaini effectively presents this sympathy in her film and Carbajal encapsulated the nuances of My Brother the Devil in his full and enthusiastic analysis. The discussion ultimately brought a refreshing portrayal of young Muslim men into focus by presenting them positively.


Wendy Norman is currently undertaking research on sexuality in Sri Lankan literature, on NTU’s MRes English Literary Research.