South(ern) African Literatures and Cultures
Much of my recent research has been in the field of South(ern) African literary and cultural studies. I am broadly interested in South(ern) African literature and film, but have focused on gender and nationalism during the South African transition, post-Truth and Reconciliation literature, and representations of war, trauma and recovery in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. I am currently researching the topic of 'women writing South Africa', and am also interested in the emergence of 'post-transitional' literatures. Key authors with whom I am, or have been, engaged include: Brink, Christianse, Coetzee, Couto, Head, Krog, Magona, Mda, Ndebele, Ngcobo, Schreiner, Van Niekerk, Vera, Wicomb.
Gender and Feminist Theory in the (Post)Colony
Feminist theories and theories of gender provide a central analytic lens in my research, much of which engages with gender & empire and gender & nation. I have been particularly interest in the deployment of female icons in the making of the 'new' South Africa (e.g. Sarah Bartmann and Winnie Mandela), the implication of gender and race in the colonial world, and the articulation of feminist discourses in and through the (post)colonial.
Oceanic worlds and cultures of the sea, the beach and the port city
My research under this broad rubric is engaged with both historical and contemporary cultural forms and representational acts. It explores the embedding of southern, south-eastern and eastern African in the Indian Ocean world (IOW); Cape Town as port city (from the VOC era to the present); the circulations of trade, slaves and spice in both the IOW and the 'black Atlantic'. In future, I plan to extend this research into a larger study of the cultures of port cities and their trans-oceanic entanglements along the southern and eastern African coast. I am broadly interested in representations of the sea and the beach in South African literatures, and in the historical and symbolic baggage that is freighted along sea currents and washed up on various littorals. I plan in future to undertake further research on the presence of the sea in southern and eastern African cultural texts and to explore also non-literary sea and beach cultures from Cape Town to Kenya. While my research focus is on the Indian Ocean and, to a lesser extent, the Atlantic, I have a more general interest in oceanic worlds including also that of the Pacific.
Indian-South African cultural networks
Linked to the above, this aspect of my research engages literary, epistolary, social, historical and political networks and links between India and South Africa. I currently have two specific foci: (1) readings of contemporary texts that chart the journey from India to South Africa and explore the translation of culture, the remaking of home and the renegotiation of citizenship and belonging on South African shores; and (2) an archival-based study focused on personal and political relations between India and South Africa in the early 20th century (while casting back through South African history). The latter project explores the making of nation, race and gender betwixt and between South Africa and India, the histories and emergent cultures of Islam and slavery in South Africa, the creole pasts and presents of the Cape, early 20th century Cape and Indian liberalisms, and the circulation of texts (particularly by Kipling and Tagore) in the making of a late imperial south-south imaginary.
African Urban Cultures
In addition to exploring the creole legacies of Cape Town as a port city, my research engages more broadly with representations and cultures of (Southern) African cityscapes. I have focused thus far on contemporary representations of Bulawayo (in Vera's fiction) and Johannesburg (in fiction by Duiker, Mpe, Vladislavic, Van Niekerk and others), on representations of early 20th century urbanization (Abrahams, Dhlomo, Paton, Vilakazi, etc), on literature associated with the Drum decade, and on literature of the apartheid city (Tlali, Serote, Fugard etc). Thematic points of focus include: urban (post)modernity in Africa; nationalism and transnationalism; xenophobia and cosmopolitanism / Afropolitanism. While the focus of my publications is generally limited to the southern African city, I have a wider interest in theories of the African city.