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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities

Research and Conferences Organised


Research Interests


  • the Anglophone novel from its beginnings to now
  • Black Atlantic Writing
  • Postcolonial Studies
  • Gender/Masculinity Studies and Queer Theory
  • Intersectionality
  • Cultural Studies
  • Film and TV Studies
  • Post-WW II Theatre
  • Popular Culture


Book Projects

Familial Feeling: Entangled Tonalities in the Rise of the British Novel and Early Black Atlantic Writing (in progress)

In this book, I analyse the simultaneous emergence of the British novel of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and the ideal of the middle-class family as always already entangled with writings of the early Black Atlantic. No other social sphere, it seems, is as saturated with affects and regimes of feeling as kinship structures. They organise emotional belonging as well as social intelligibility and the accumulation of wealth. Literature and the act of reading as empathic identification with Others becomes the central medium for the conception of the modern subject. This narrative conception of subjectivity hence emerges at the intersection of modernity, national belonging and familial feelings. On a metaphorical level these texts construct a 'national family', which feeds into narrations of modern nation states and the emergence of a national literary canon. Authors like Daniel Defoe, Laurence Sterne, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens become pioneers of this new middle-class self-image. At the same time, however, the first written testimonies of Black British or transatlantic authors such as Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho, Robert Wedderburn and Mary Seacole are published. Linked initially mainly to the abolitionist campaign, these narratives can also be read as part of a larger 'family history'. Literature becomes the medium of middle-class self-assertion and the emotive claim of subject status by those who have been excluded from the realm of the human, the 'family of man'. The tension between the canonical texts, on the one side, and those marginalised for a long time, on the other, is understood as an entangled literary history in this project.

Already in 1994 Edward Said suggested to read "different experiences contrapuntally" as "intertwined and overlapping histories" (Culture and Imperialism, 18). Even if this has become a foundational principle of postcolonial literary studies, there is a tendency to focus either on the influences of imperial culture on canonical writers like Austen or Dickens or to shift attention to the global literatures in English. Thereby local contexts are often analysed following the paradigm of "writing back" - challenging the centre from the periphery. In such approaches, I argue, the potential of Said's contrapuntal reading is reduced to a binary opposition that finds expression only in postcolonial writing - understood as a form of writing that succeeds decolonisation. A focus on authors of the early Black Atlantic, however, shows that already the emergence of the British middle-class family and its narratives are part of a global context that needs to be taken into consideration in its emotive and formative effects in the interplay of definitions of hegemonic self and Other.

With this publication, I am interested in bringing into dialogue the mainly separated spheres of postclassical approaches in narrative studies, addressing aesthetic dimensions of literature and narrative identity formation, with those strands of affect studies that emphasise the political dimensions of affect and feeling, prevalent in postcolonial studies and queer theory.


The Privilege of Crisis. Narrative Patterns of Masculinities in English Colonial and Postcolonial Literature, Photography and Film (completed 2011)

Based on the supposition that the often-cited discourse of "the crisis of masculinity" is privileged in the sense that it re-centres White hegemonic masculinity, this study deals with the analysis of narrative patterns of masculinities in colonial fiction by H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad as well as colonial photography. Juxtaposed to the colonial sources are readings of postcolonial novels by Hanif Kureishi, Zadie Smith and J.M. Coetzee as well as of films by Stephen Frears and Neil Jordan. This focus of the study on discursive peak phases of colonial and postcolonial crises of masculinity in modern and postmodern times, respectively, is not based on the assumption that masculinity is, in fact, in crisis. Rather the analysis foregrounds the rise of crises narratives which turn crisis into a privileged narrative pattern of hegemonic masculinity. While the colonial sources suggest a stronger containment of the crisis of masculinity, postcolonial texts self-reflexively expose these crisis tendencies. Nonetheless, both periods produce re-privileging tendencies that are explored in greater detail.
In addition to its interdisciplinary literary and cultural studies approach, the study is situated in critical theoretical fields such as postcolonial studies and queer theory and aims at an interdependent/intersectional understanding of gender - here most explicitly masculinity.

More information here.


Research Projects

Re-Imagining the Archive: Sexual Politics and Postcolonial Entanglements (2019 to 2021)

Joint research project of Prof. Elahe Haschemi Yekani (HU, English and American Studies) and Prof. Silvy Chakkalakal (HU, European Ethnology) as well as Prof. Regina Kunzel and Prof. Erika L. Milam (both Princeton University, Department of History) funded by a Princeton-HU Strategic Partnership Grant.


The archive and questions of its politics, infrastructures, and technologies are a prominent focus of research within Gender, Sexuality, and Postcolonial Studies. In recent years, universities, museums of natural history as well as ethnological museums, national archives and scientific collections, both in North America and in Western Europe, have undergone increased academic as well as public scrutiny regarding their historical entanglements with colonial history. The focus has been on the specific material collected and preserved, the archives' content and its representation, the production of data (cultural, social, biological, etc.) as well as the very politics of selection, the historical narratives they enable, and the gaps they necessarily entail. Whose and what knowledges are archived and what is absent? What concepts of history, belonging or life itself do different archives generate and pass on?
In this project that comprises extensive teaching and research exchange under the joint roof of the Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies (ZtG) at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Princeton University’s Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies (GSS) we want to re-imagine the archive as a research tool and laboratory that encompasses alternative ways of creating academic knowledge. Against the simple binary of absence/presence, we argue that the idea of re-imagining the archive needs to rest on more complex methods than "rescuing" forgotten artefacts and/or adding the stories of minoritized subjects to existing historical narratives. Re-imagining here means reading both with and against the grain, focusing on the messy entanglements and the sexual politics that any form of archiving entails. This includes work with the material objects, classificatory orders, and the socio-material, spatial, and temporal constellations that configure archives. How, in short, can we re-imagine the archive in such a way that the practice of imagination becomes a methodological tool in itself.


Revis(ualis)ing Intersectionality (2019 to 2020)

Joint research project of Prof. Dr. Elahe Haschemi Yekani (HU, English and American Studies) and Prof. Dr. Magdalena Nowicka (German Center for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM) funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.

More information here.


Critical Habitations: Research Network and Blog


Critical Habitations: Thinking about the Here and Now of Cultural Studies


Since its emergence cultural studies has been concerned with the historical materiality of particular moments, places and conjunctures. The blog criticalhabitations serves as a platform of exchange among practitioners of cultural studies, who - as researchers, teachers, activists - remain committed to cultural studies' focus on a specific here and now, a concrete time and place. It takes as its starting point the notion of habitation. How do we dwell in the traditions of cultural studies in our diverse locations? Have some of our categories of analysis and terms of engagements become mere habits? Is cultural studies a space of dissent, or a homely space? For whom?

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Pluralising Practices
Workshop at the University of Arts and Design Linz, Austria, 1-3 June 2016

Rupture Dynamics: Interrogating the Here and Now of Cultural Studies
Workshop at the University of Konstanz, 26-28 June 2014

Quo Vadis Cultural Studies
Workshop and Public Roundtable Discussion at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2 November 2012


Scientific Network funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) (2007-2011)


The Body in Cultural Studies

Das von der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) von 2007 bis 2011 geförderte Netzwerk »Körper in den Kulturwissenschaften« bemühte sich darum, die unterschiedlichen Konzeptionen und Begriffe von Körper, wie sie in den Kulturwissenschaften und darüber hinaus kursieren, kritisch zueinander in Bezug zu setzen. Dabei verfolgten die Mitglieder diese Zielsetzungen: Zunächst wurde eine Bestandsaufnahme vorgenommen, welche die begrifflichen und theoretischen Grundlagen der Diskussionen um Körper in den Kulturwissenschaften in den Blick nahm. In einem zweiten Schritt wurden die dabei gewonnenen Erkenntnisse kritisch zueinander ins Verhältnis gesetzt und so Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede, Zusammenhänge und Brüche der verschiedenen Ansätze transparent gemacht. Ziel des Projekts war die Erstellung eines »Kompendiums Körper in den Kulturwissenschaften«. Eine solche Referenzdarstellung soll nicht allein die Ergebnisse der beiden ersten Schritte problemorientiert zusammenfassen, sondern darüber hinaus zur gesellschafts- wie wissenschaftspolitisch notwendigen Kommunikation zwischen Kulturwissenschaften einerseits und Bio- bzw. Naturwissenschaften andererseits beitragen.

Erschienen als:

Netzwerk Körper. What Can a Body Do? Praktiken und Figurationen des Körpers in den Kulturwissenschaften. Frankfurt am Main/New York: Campus, 2012.


Conferences organised and co-organised