I am a research professor ("docent BOF-ZAP") in English and American literature and culture at Ghent University, where I direct the Cultural Memory Studies Initiative (formerly the Centre for Literature and Trauma). Before taking up my current post, I served as a postdoctoral research fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO-Vlaanderen) and an assistant professor at Ghent University. My degrees are from the University of Leuven (PhD, MA), the University of Hull (MA), and the Catholic University of Brussels (BA). I have held visiting fellowships at the School of Advanced Study, University of London; Birkbeck, University of London; Columbia University; and the Flemish Academic Centre for Science and the Arts (VLAC).
I am the author of Postcolonial Witnessing: Trauma Out of Bounds (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and Trauma and Ethics in the Novels of Graham Swift: No Short-Cuts to Salvation (Sussex Academic Press, 2005), and have guest-edited special issues of Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts (2011; with Michael Rothberg) and Studies in the Novel (2008; with Gert Buelens) on the topics of, respectively, transcultural negotiations of Holocaust memory and postcolonial trauma novels. I have also contributed to journals such as ARIEL, Callaloo, Canadian Review of American Studies, Contemporary Literature, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, Cultural Critique, Memory Studies, and Textual Practice, as well as to books published by Bloomsbury, Palgrave Macmillan, Routledge, Wiley-Blackwell, and other academic presses. Moreover, I sit on the editorial boards of Atlantis, Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies, and Miscelánea: A Journal of English and American Studies. My next book projects are an introductory guide to the concept of trauma for Routledge's New Critical Idiom series and an edited collection provisionally titled Memory Unbound: Tracing the Dynamics of Memory Studies (with Lucy Bond and Pieter Vermeulen).
Much of my research focuses on the ways in which postcolonial literature in English bears witness to the suffering engendered by colonial oppression. Through a number of case studies I investigate the specificity of colonial traumas in relation to the hegemonic trauma discourse, analyse the textual strategies deployed to give them literary form, and explore the ethico-political stakes involved in the postcolonial memory work this literature undertakes. I also examine how, why, and to what effect the memory of the Holocaust is evoked in literary texts that connect the Nazi genocide of the European Jews with other exceptionally destructive, criminal, and catastrophic histories, such as slavery, colonialism, and other genocides. Additional research interests include literary responses to climate change, the representation of perpetrators, and imaginings of Europe and the Congo.
human beings are human insofar as they bear witness to the inhumanGiorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz