Dr Brendon Nicholls

Dr Brendon Nicholls


My principal research interests are in Postcolonial literatures in English, and I have specialised interests in the Anglophone literatures of Africa and secondary interests in American Literature.

Dr Brendon Nicholls BA, Natal; BA Honours, MA, Cape Town; DPhil, Essex

Research Interests

My principal research interests are in African Studies and Postcolonial Studies, and I have specialised interests in the Anglophone literatures of Africa. I maintain an abiding interest in work by Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Dambudzo Marechera, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Bessie Head, Nadine Gordimer, Chimamanda Adichie, Chris Abani, K. Sello Duiker, Chinua Achebe, Jeet Thayil, Neel Mukherjee and Salman Rushdie and I am cultivating new interests in Indigeneity and film. I welcome interest from prospective graduate students who wish to work in these areas.

Additionally, my broader research interests include postcolonial theory; gender politics (especially clitoridectomy in Kenya); Mau Mau; the cultural logic of the symptom and psychoanalytic approaches to postcolonial literatures; and performative reading methodologies in postcolonial contexts. I have a subsidiary research interest in American literature (particularly post-1945) and have published work on the Beat Generation.

Recent Activities

Research Council Service

I served on the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Peer Review College for the period 2007-2014. 

Editorial Boards

I serve on the editorial boards of the following publications:
The Journal of Commonwealth Literature
Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings
East African Literary and Cultural Studies

and have recently served on the editorial board of: Postcolonial Text


I teach the following option modules:

Contemporary South African Writing (Undergraduate)

Contemporary Postcolonial Texts (Undergraduate)

Africas of the Mind (Postgraduate)






Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Gender, and the Ethics of Postcolonial Reading (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2010)


Edited Collection


Nadine Gordimer’s July’s People (Routledge Guides to Literature), (London: Routledge, 2011)


Journal Articles


Invited article, ‘Decolonization and Popular Poetics: From Soweto Poetry to Diasporic Solidarity,’ for English in Africa Special Issue on Africa and the Un/Popular Arts edited by Lynda Spencer, (submitted 2018, awaiting revisions)

Invited article, ‘An Environmental Unconscious? Nigerian Oil Politics, Autonomous Partial Objects and Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy’ forthcoming in Research in African Literatures 48:4, (2017) Special issue on Ken Saro-Wiwa edited by Professor Stephanie Newell (in press)

Invited roundtable response, ‘Game Reserves, Murder, Afterlives: Grace A. Musila’s A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour,’ Eastern African Literary and Cultural Studies, 3:2 (2017), pp. 184-199.

‘History, Intertextuality and Gender in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Petals of Blood,’ Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, 14:1 (2014), pp. 71-76.

‘Postcolonial Narcissism, Cryptopolitics, and Hypnocritique: Dambudzo Marechera’s The House of Hunger,’ Postcolonial Text, 13:2 (November 2013), pp. 1-22. http://postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/viewFile/1715/1561

‘Chinua Achebe at Leeds: When the Great Share the Good,’ University of Leeds Centre for African Studies Bulletin 73 (December 2011), pp. 42-45.

Invited article, ‘Apartheid Cinema and Indigenous Image Rights: The “Bushman” Myth in Jamie Uys’ The Gods Must Be Crazy’ in Flanery, P. and van der Vlies, A. (eds), Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa, Special Issue on South Africa and the Global Media 13:1 (2008), pp. 20-32.

‘Re-introducing Tsitsi Dangarembga’s She No Longer Weeps,’ Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, 5: 1 (2005), pp. 105-119.

‘The Topography of ‘Woman’ in Ngugi’s Weep Not, Child,’ Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 40: 3 (September 2005), pp. 81-101.

‘The Melting Pot that Boiled Over: Racial Fetishism and the Lingua Franca of Jack Kerouac’s Fiction,’ Modern Fiction Studies, Special Issue on Racechange and the Fictions of Identity, 49: 3 (Fall 2003), pp. 524-549.

‘Clitoridectomy and Gikuyu Nationalism in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s The River Between,Kunapipi: Journal of Postcolonial Writing, XXV: 2 (2003), pp. 40-55.

‘Post-Apartheid Violence and the Institution of Literature’ in Australian Humanities Review, April-June 1999. http://www.lib.latrobe.edu.au/AHR/archive/Issue-April-1999/nicholls.html


Chapters in Edited Books


Invited chapter, ‘Gender and the Political in Ngugi’s Fiction’ in Lovesey, O. (ed), Approaches to Teaching the Works of Ngugi wa Thiong'o, (New York: Modern Language Association of America (MLA), 2012), pp. 48-52.

‘Reading Ngugi on Four Continents: Relational Aesthetics and the Global Multicultural Classroom’ in Lovesey, O. (ed), Approaches to Teaching the Works of Ngugi wa Thiong'o, (New York: Modern Language Association of America (MLA), 2012), pp.129-135.

‘Indigeneity, Visuality and Postcolonial Theory: The Case of the San,’ in Devy, G. N, Davis G. V. and Chakravarty, K. K. (eds), Indigeneity: Culture and Interpretation (Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2009), pp. 203-211.

Invited Chapter, ‘Reading ‘Pakistan’ in Salman Rushdie’s Shame’ in Gurnah, A. (ed), Cambridge Companion to Salman Rushdie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 109-123.

‘The Beat Generation: Literature, Gender and Race in Post-War America’ in Plain, G. and Hipkins, D. (eds), War-torn Tales: Literature, Film and Gender in the Aftermath of World War II (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2007), pp. 223-236.

‘Literary Studies in Post-Apartheid Universities: Possibilities for a New South African Literature in Ivan Vladislavi’s “Courage”’ in Afolayan, M. (ed.), Higher Education in Postcolonial Africa: Paradigms of Development, Decline and Dilemmas (Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, 2007), pp. 121-133.

Invited chapter, ‘The Landscape of Insurgency: Mau Mau, Gender and Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Fiction’ in Hooper, G. (ed.) Landscape and Empire, 1800-2000 (Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2005), pp. 177-194.

‘Indexing Her Digests: Working Through Nervous Conditions’ in Treiber, J. and Willey, A.E. (eds) Emerging Perspectives on Tsitsi Dangarembga: Negotiating the Postcolonial (Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, 2002), pp. 99-134.

‘Locating the “Nigga” in “The Wood-Pile:” Robert Frost, the Academy and Pedagogy in the Context of a South African Tertiary Education’ in Scanlon, J. and Waste, A. (eds) Crossing Boundaries: Thinking Through Literature (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), pp. 130-140.


Book Reviews and Review Essays


‘Derek Hook, A Critical Psychology of the Postcolonial: The Mind of Apartheid,’ Postcolonial Text 9:3 (2014), pp. 1-4. http://postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/view/1894/1734

‘Dobrota Pucherova, The Ethics of Dissident Desire in Southern African Writing and Dobrota Pucherova and Julie Cairnie, Moving Spirit: The Legacy of Dambudzo Marechera in the 21st Century,’ Journal of Southern African Studies 39:3 (2013). pp. 742-745.

‘Nadine Gordimer, Telling Times: Writing and Living 1954-2008 and Life Times: Stories 1952-2007,’ Wasafiri 73 (Spring 2013), pp. 82-86

‘Andrew van der Vlies, South African Textual Cultures: White, Black, Read All Over,’ in Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings 9:1 (2009), pp. 144-146.

‘Gerald Gaylard, After Colonialism: African Postmodernism and Magical Realism’ in Postcolonial Text 3:2 (2007), pp. 1-3. http://postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/viewFile/741/430

‘Chinua Achebe, Collected Poems and Togara Muzanenhamo, Spirit Brides’ in Stand 7:3 (2007), pp. 58-60.

‘Steve Jacobs, The Enemy Within and Ivan Vladislavic, Propaganda by Monuments’ in Journal of Southern African Studies 25: 1 (March 1999), pp. 158-160.

‘Joseph N. Riddel, The Turning Word: American Literary Modernism and Continental Theory in Journal of American Studies 32: 1 (1998), pp. 184-185.


Recent conference papers


Invited paper, ‘Indigeneity and Film: The Gods Must Be Crazy,’ April 2018, University of Paris XIII, France

Invited paper, ‘Indigeneity in Southern Africa: National Reconciliation Versus Political Sovereignty,’ Literature, Reconciliation and Transitional Justice seminar, American Comparative Literature Association conference, March-April 2018, University of California Los Angeles

Invited paper, ‘Literature and Transitional Justice After the Rwandan Genocide: Veronique Tadjo’s The Shadow of Imana,’ Literature, Democracy and Transitional Justice colloquium, March 2018, St. John’s College, University of Oxford

‘Womanism and Critical Method in African Diaspora Literatures,’ ‘Six Mountains on Her Back:’ (Re) thinking African Feminisms colloquium, July 2017 Rhodes University

Invited paper, ‘Bessie Head, Popular Children’s Literature, and the Erotics of Power,’ African Literature Association conference, June 2017, Yale University

Invited paper, ‘Environment, Psyche Objects: Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy,’ African Literature Association conference, June 2017, Yale University

Invited paper, ‘Hearing Voices in Africa,’ Interdisciplinary Hearing the Voice project (Wellcome Trust), Institute of Advanced Study, June 2017, Durham University

Invited paper, ‘Anti-Apartheid Poetry Revisited,’ Ethics, Affect, Responsibility: Global Citizenship and the Act of Reading workshop, Jan. 2017, University of Bristol

Invited paper, ‘Kamau Brathwaite’s “Ancestors” and The Act of Reading’ Ethics, Affect, Responsibility: Global Citizenship and the Act of Reading workshop, Jan. 2017, University of Bristol

Invited paper, ‘Grace Musila's A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: A Response,’ African Studies Association of the United Kingdom conference, Sept. 2016, University of Cambridge

‘African Vernacular Theories, Psychoanalysis and Environmentalism,’ Association of Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies conference, July 2016, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Invited paper, ‘African Literature and Activism,’ African Literature in the United Kingdom Workshop, June 2016, Kings College, London

‘Ken Saro-Wiwa, Heteronormativity, and Gender Politics,’ Yorkshire African Studies Network (YASN) Workshop on Gender and Sexuality, Jan. 2016, University of Leeds

‘Freud, Lions, Africans,’ World, Nation, Location workshop, organised by Professor Stuart Taberner, Centre for World Literatures, Oct. 2015, University of Leeds

Invited paper, ‘Tactical Psychopathy and the Environmental Libido in Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy,’ Finding Africa seminar series, Oct. 2014, University of York

‘Tactical Psychopathy and the Environmental Libido in Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy,’ African Studies Association of the United Kingdom conference, Sept. 2014, University of Sussex

‘History, Intertextuality and Gender in Ngugi’s Petals of Blood,’ African Studies Association of the United Kingdom conference, Sept. 2012, University of Leeds.

Invited paper, ‘Soyinka in Britain and Brathwaite in Africa,’ Poetry, Emigration and Travel conference, May 2012, University of Sheffield

Invited paper, ‘Reading Ethically: Gender and Ngugi’s Texts in Translation,’ New Debates on Culture and Confidence symposium, School of Modern Languages and Linguistics Postcolonial and Migration Studies Research Cluster, July, 2011, University of Sheffield

‘Reading Ethically: Gender and Ngugi’s Texts in Translation,’ Africa: Cultural Translations conference, May 2010, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Lancaster




‘Five African Novels to Read before You Die,’ The Conversation November (2014), 14,331 readers, https://theconversation.com/five-african-novels-to-read-before-you-die-33063

Interviewed by director David Wachanga for Ngugi wa Thiong’o documentary film            ,2010

Press coverage of Ngugi research in ‘Literary Discourse’ section, East African Standard     


Academic Leadership


University Senate (elected Faculty of Arts representative), University of Leeds, 2010-2018


  • Leeds University Centre for African Studies Board
  • Year 1 Attendance Tutor
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Research groups and institutes

  • Critical Life Research Group

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>