Professor John McLeod

Professor John McLeod


I was raised by Scottish parents in Manchester, UK, before arriving at the University of Leeds in 1987 as a student of English literature. My first academic post was as Lecturer in English at Southampton, before returning to Leeds as a staff member in 1996. 

I was promoted to Professor of Postcolonial and Diaspora Literatures in May 2010. I have also been a Visiting Research Fellow at the Research Institute for History and Culture (OGC), Faculty of Arts, University of Utrecht, Netherlands (2009), a Transatlantic Forum Scholar at Washington University in St Louis, USA (2014), and a Visiting Researcher at the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (2019).

Research interests

I work primarily in the field of postcolonial studies, and have particular interests in transcultural adoption writing and representations of diasporic and once-colonised locations. 

My book, Life Lines: Writing Transcultural Adoption (Bloomsbury, 2015), explores fiction, film and memoir writing concerning the adoption of children across the lines of culture, race and nation. It attends to the sorry histories of severance and sundering which adoption always exposes, while addressing the transgressive and transformative possibilities which thinking through adoption makes available to all. I shape a new concept of 'adoptive being' from these possibilities and explore the new forms of transpersonal relations and modes of personhood that transcultural adoption texts may prefigure beyond the usual lines of biogenetic, racial or cultural filiation.

Adoption writing remains a key research priority and passion of mine. I am co-editor (with Emily Hipchen) of the new Ohio State University Press series Formations: Adoption, Kinship, and Culture, and I am also a member of the editorial board of the international journal Adoption and Culture.

Previously I have published Postcolonial London: Rewriting the Metropolis (Routledge, 2004) which explores how London has been reimagined by a variety of post-war writers, while my co-edited collection The Revision of Englishness (Manchester University Press, 2004) considers the ways in which Englishness has been imaginatively reconsidered by different kinds of writers and film-makers. I have also contributed many scholarly essays to academic journals and books concerning postcolonial, diasporic and transcultural literatures.

I am also interested in critical theories of the postcolonial - my first book, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester University Press, second edition, 2010) introduces many of the key concepts in the field and considers their application to the reading of literature. I have also edited the Routledge Companion to Postcolonial Studies (Routledge, 2007), which engages with the histories, cultures, theories and key figures of Anglophone, Francophone, Lusophone and Hispanic postcolonial contexts.

I have published in the field of Caribbean and black British writing, with particular focus on the work of Caryl Phillips, Derek Walcott and V. S. Naipaul. I maintain a healthy general interest in postwar British literature and the novel in general. In 2007, Northcote House published my book J. G. Farrell, which concerns one of my favourite novelists, while in 2014 Bloomsbury published my co-edited collection The 1970s: A Decade of Contemporary British Fiction which includes my essay on Black British writing in the seventies. 

I am on the editorial boards of a number of important journals in postcolonial studies – Moving Worlds, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, New Literatures Review, Journal of Commonwealth Literature - and I have guest-edited two issues of Kunapipi (XXI, 2, 1999, and XXV, 1, 2003).

My current research activities concern migration and mobility amid the prohibitions of twenty-first-century globality, with a particular focus on transcultural adoptees, elite sporting figures and documented migrants in world cities. I was recently awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to support this research.

I have supervised PhD theses on a wealth of topics including:

  • race and anti-racism
  • recent representations of slavery
  • Caribbean literature
  • South Asian cities
  • EM Forster's postcolonial legacies
  • representing refuge and asylum
  • black British cosmopolitanism
  • the ruin in Irish writing

Along with this, I have also worked as a doctoral thesis examiner in the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Italy, Australia, Germany, Austria, Spain and Canada.  

Recent Activities

  • June 2021 – I was honoured to deliver online a keynote address, titled Bloody Postcolonialism, at the triennial conference of the European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (EACLALS), hosted by Cardiff University, UK.
  • April 2021 – I delivered online a research presentation, Writing the Trespasser: Race and Reception in Caryl Phillips’s “Northern Lights”, as part of the ‘Transculturalismes’ seminar series at Paris-Sorbonne University, France.
  • January 2020 – I delivered a keynote address concerning the literary aesthetics of trespassing at an international conference, Challenging Precarity: A Global Network, at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy.
  • November 2019 – I delivered an invited lecture, Remembering the Postcolonial: Past Paradigms, Present Perceptions, to staff and students at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Also in November 2019, I gave a keynote address, Writing the Trespasser, at the 43rd AEDEN conference at the University of Alicante, Spain.
  • March–April 2019 – I was honoured to be an invited Visiting Researcher at the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Also in March 2019, I gave a research presentation on 'postcolonial reading' to staff and students at Aarhus University, Denmark.
  • December 2018 – I was honoured to deliver a research presentation titled Adoptive Being and Postcolonial Writing and lead a research symposium based on my book Life Lines at the Free University of Berlin, Germany.
  • November 2018 – I gave an invited paper titled Reading Postmigration in Black Writing of Britain at an international conference, The Postmigrant Condition: Art, Culture and Politics in Contemporary Europe, at the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark.
  • October 2018 – I participated in latest biennual conference of the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture, titled Formations: Thinking Through Adoption, at the Oakland Asian Cultural Centre and Oakstop, Oakland, California, USA.
  • June 2018 – I lectured on transcultural adoption writing at the University of Vienna, Austria. Previously, in May 2018 I presented a research paper on my work on adoption studies at the University of the Sorbonne, Paris, France.
  • April 2018 – I was pleased to join an invited roundtable discussion about migration and cities at an international conference, Migrant Narratives and the City, held at Central European University, Hungary.
  • March 2018 – I was honoured to give an invited keynote address titled Black British Writers and Transracial Adoption at the international conference ‘On Whose Terms?': Critical Negotiations in Black British Literature and the Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK. 
  • March 2018 – I was invited to speak at a symposium on the work of Caryl Phillips held by the University of East Anglia, UK, at the Writers' Centre Norwich.
  • January 2018 – I was invited to present my research on transcultural adoption and postcolonial writing to the staff and students at St Mary’s University, Nova Scotia, Canada.



  • Life Lines: Writing Transcultural Adoption (Bloomsbury Academic: London, 2015), pp. 246 + ix. ISBN 978 1 4725 9038 1
  • J. G Farrell (Plymouth: Northcote House, 2007), pp. 115. ISBN 978 0 7463 0986 5.
  • Postcolonial London: Rewriting the metropolis (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), pp. 210. ISBN 0 4153 4460 3
  • Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000), pp. 274 + xii.  ISBN 0 7190 5209 2. Second edition (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2010), pp. 333 + vxii.  ISBN 978 0 7190 7858 3

Edited books

  • The 1970s: A Decade of Contemporary British Fiction (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), ed. by Nick Hubble, John McLeod and Philip Tew, pp. 256.  ISBN13: 978 1 441 13391 5
  • The Routledge Companion to Postcolonial Studies (London and New York: Routledge, 2007), ed. by John McLeod, pp. 252.  ISBN13: 978 0 415 32497 7
  • The Revisions of Englishness, ed. by David Rogers and John McLeod (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, December 2004), pp. 194.  ISBN 978 0 415 32497 7

Edited Journals

  • 'New Diasporas, New Directions', special issue of Etudes anglaises: revue du monde anglophone, 70 (1), 2017.  ISSN 0014-195X
  • '(Con)figuring Sport', special issue of Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writing, 12 (1), 2012 (edited with Shirley Chew).  ISSN 1474-4600 
  • 'Festschrift for Shirley Chew', special issue of Kunapipi: Journal of Post-Colonial Writing, XXV (1), 2003 (edited with Catherine Batt and Elleke Boehmer). ISSN 0106-5734
  • 'Post-Colonial London', special issue of Kunapipi: Journal of Post-Colonial Writing, XX1 (2), 1999. ISBN 1 87 1049 68 7

Essays in journals

  • ‘Warning Signs: Postcolonial Writing and the Apprehension of Brexit’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 56 (5), 2020.
  • ‘When Memories Fade: Remembering Anti-Racism in Contemporary Black British Writing’, Wasafiri, 34 (4), 2019, pp. 18–23. ISSN 0269-0055.
  • 'Adoption Studies and Postcolonial Inquiry', Adoption and Culture, 6 (1), 2018, pp. 206–228.
  • ‘Spilled like water: Imagining Family Relations in the Poetry of Jackie Kay', Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, 18 (1), 2018, pp. 3–16.  ISSN 1474-4600
  • 'Against Biocentrism: Blood, Adoption, and Diasporic Writing', Etudes anglaises: revue du monde anglophone, 70 (1), 2017, pp. 28–44.
  • 'Preface: New Diasporas, New Directions', Etudes anglaises: revue du monde anglophone, 70 (1), 2017, pp. 3–10.
  • 'Postcolonial Studies and the Ethics of the Quarrel', Paragraph, 40 (1), 2017, pp. 97–113. DOI: 10.3366/para.2017.0217
  • 'The Journal of Commonwealth Literature in the 1970s', Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 50 (3), 2015, pp. 282–296. DOI 10.1177/0021989415594653
  • 'The City by the Water: Caryl Phillips in Conversation with John McLeod [interview]', Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 17 (6), 2015, pp. 879–892. DOI 10.1080/1369801X.2014.998258
  • 'London Crossings: Meeting Mike Phillips [interview]', Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, 13 (1), 2013, pp. 148–154.  ISSN 1474-4600
  • 'Lessons from London: E. R. Braithwaite and Black Writing in 1950s Britain', Yearbook of English Studies, 42, 2012, pp. 64–79.  ISSN 0306-2473
  • 'Cricketing Multiculturalism in Caryl Phillips's Playing Away', International Journal of the History of Sport, 29 (12), 2012, pp. 1791–1804 -- ISSN 0952-3367.  [Reprinted in Sport, Literature, Society: Cultural Historical Studies, ed. A. Tadi, J. A. Mangan and S. Chaudhuri (Oxford: Routledge, 2013).]
  • 'Sounding Silence: Transculturation and its Thresholds', Transnational Literature, 4 (1), 2011, pp. 1–13
  • 'Extra Dimensions, New Routines: Contemporary black writing of Britain', Wasafiri, 25 (4), 2010, pp. 45–52.  ISSN 0269-0055
  • 'British Freedoms: Caryl Phillips's Transatlanticism and the Staging of Rough Crossings', Atlantic Studies, 6 (2), 2009, pp. 191–206. ISSN 1478-8810
  • '"A sound that is missing': writing Africa in the Anglophone Caribbean', Journal of Transatlantic Studies, 7 (3), 2009, pp. 329–342. ISSN 1479-4012
  • '"Always turning": Colin MacInnes's Tour of the Thames', Literary London: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Representation of London, 5 (1), 2007, np
  • '"Between two waves": Caryl Phillips and Black Britain', Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, 7 (1), 2007, pp. 9–19. ISSN 1474-4600
  • 'Postcolonial Fictions of Adoption', Critical Survey, 18 (2), 2006, pp. 45–55 - ISSN 0011-1570
  • 'Revisiting Postcolonial London', The European English Messenger, 14 (2), 2005, pp. 39–46. ISSN 0960 4545
  • 'Reading the Archipelago', Francophone Postcolonial Studies 1 (1), 2003, pp. 55–59. ISSN 0791-4938
  • 'Reflections on the Thames, Westminster', Kunapipi: Journal of Post-Colonial Writing, XXV (1), 2003, pp. 141–147. ISSN 0106-5734
  • 'A Night at "the Cosmopolitan": Axes of Transnational Encounter in the 1930s and 1940s', Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Vol. 4 (1) (2002), pp. 53–67. ISSN 1369-801X
  • 'Some Problems with "British" in "a Black British Canon"', Wasafiri 36, Summer 2002, pp. 56–59. ISSN 0269-005
  • 'Naipaul's London: Mr Stone and the Knights Companion', Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, 2(1) 2002, pp. 42–50. ISSN 1474-4600
  • '"Wheel and Come Again": Transnational Aesthetics Beyond the Postcolonial', HJEAS: Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies, 7 (2), 2001, pp. 85–99. ISSN 1218-7364
  • 'On the Chase for Gideon Nye: History and Representation in Timothy Mo's An Insular Possession', Journal of Commonwealth Literature , 34 (2), 1999, pp. 61–73. ISSN 0021-9894
  • '(Un)Popular Postmodernism: Reading Kazuo Ishiguro's An Artist of the Floating World', Diegesis , 2, Summer 1998, pp. 30–35.
  • 'Exhibiting Empire in J. G. Farrell's The Siege of Krishnapur', Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 29 (2), 1994, pp. 117–132. ISSN 0021-9894

Essays in edited books

  • Reinventing the Nation: Black and Asian British Representations’ in The Cambridge History of Black and Asian British Writing, ed. Susheila Nasta and Mark Stein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), pp. 453–467.  ISBN 978-11-08-16414-6
  • ‘Caryl Phillips and Ordinariness’ in Thinking with the Familiar in Contemporary Literature and Culture ‘Out of the Ordinary’, ed. Joel Kuortti, Kaisa Ilmonen, Elina Valovirta and Janne Korkka (Leiden/Boston: Brill/Rodopi, 2019), pp. 23–40. ISBN 978-90-04-40674-2
  • 'Convent and Convention: Imagining Birth-Mothers in Dermot Bolger's A Second Life' in Emerging Aesthetic Imaginaries, ed. Lene Johannessen and Mark Ledbetter (Lanham: Lexington, 2018).  ISBN 978-1-4985-7199-9
  • 'Preface' to New Directions in Diaspora Studies: Cultural and Literary Approaches, ed. Sarah Ilot, Ana Cristina Mendes and Lucinda Newns (London & New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), pp. xiii–xvii. ISBN 978-1-78660-516-0
  • 'Wards and Rewards: Adoptability and Lost Children' in Uncommon Wealths in Postcolonial Fiction, ed. Helga Ramsey-Kurz and Melissa Kennedy (Leiden & Boston: Brill/Rodopi, 2018), pp. 229–248.  ISBN 978-90-04-35260-5
  • 'Cruel Chronologies: Ireland, America, and Transatlantic Adoption in The Lost Child of Philomena Lee and Philomena' in International Adoption in North American Literature and Culture, ed. Mark Shackleton (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), pp. 277–295.  ISBN 978-3-319-59941-0
  • 'Adoption Aesthetics' in The Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945-2010), ed. Deirdre Osborne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), pp. 211–224.  ISBN 9781316488546.
  • 'Race, Empire and The Swimming-Pool Library' in Alan Hollinghurst: Writing Under the Influence, ed. Michle Mendelssohn and Denis Flannery (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016), pp. 60–78.  ISBN 978-07190-9717-1
  • 'The Novel and the End of Empire' in The Oxford History of the Novel in English, Volume 7: British and Irish Fiction Since 1940, ed. Peter Boxall and Bryan Cheyette (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 80–93.  ISBN 978-0-19-874939-4
  • 'Black British Fiction and Culture in the 1970s' in The 1970s: A Decade of Contemporary British Fiction, ed. Nick Hubble, John McLeod and Philip Tew (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), pp. 93–116.  ISBN13: 978 1 441 13391
  • 'Postcolonialism and Literature' in The Oxford Handbook of Postcolonial Studies, ed. Graham Huggan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 449–466.  ISBN 978-0-19-958825-1
  • 'Black British Writing and Post-British England' in Literature of an Independent England: Revisions of England, Englishness and English Literature, ed. Claire Westall and Michael Gardiner (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), pp. 175–187.  ISBN 978-1-137-03523-3
  • 'Taking Shortcuts: Literary Perspectives of the "Black Atlantic"' in New Perspectives on the Black Atlantic: Definitions, Readings, Practices, Dialogues, ed. Bndicte Ledent and Pilar Cuder-Domnguez (Bern: Peter Lang, 2012), pp. 135–154.  ISBN 978-3-03911-801-4
  • 'Vido, not Sir Vidia: Caryl Phillips's Encounters with V. S. Naipaul' in Caryl Phillips: Writing in the Key of Life, ed. Bndicte Ledent and Daria Tunca (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2012), pp. 109–125.  ISBN 978-90-420-3455-6
  • 'Postcolonial Writing in Britain' in The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature, Volume I, ed. Ato Quayon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 2012, pp. 571–603. ISBN 978-1-107-00701-7
  • 'English Somewheres: Caryl Phillips and the English North' in Postcolonial Spaces: The Politics of Place in Contemporary Culture, ed. Andrew Teverson and Sara Upstone (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp.14–27.  ISBN 978-0-230-25225-7
  • 'Transcontinental Shifts: Afroeurope and the Fiction of Bernardine Evaristo', Afroeuropean Configurations: Readings and Projects, ed. Sabrina Brancato, (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), pp. 168–182.  ISBN (10): 1-4438-3337-1
  • 'Writing London in the Twenty-First Century' in The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of London, ed. Lawrence Manley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 241–260. ISBN-13: 9780521722315
  • 'Nations and Nationalisms' in A Concise Companion to Postcolonial Literature, ed. Shirley Chew and David Richards (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), pp. 97–119. ISBN 978 1 4051 3503 0
  • 'Business Unbegun: Spectral Subjectivities in the Work of Jackie Kay and Pauline Melville' in Postcolonial Ghosts / Fantmes Post-Coloniaux, ed. by Judith Misrahi-Barak (Montpellier: Presses universitaires de la Mditerrane, 2009), pp. 179–194. ISBN 978-2-84269-885-0
  • 'Dancing in the Dark: Caryl Phillips in Conversation with John McLeod' in Conversations with Caryl Phillips, ed. Renee T. Schatteman (Mississipi: University Press of Mississipi, 2009), pp. 143–150. ISBN 978-1604732108
  • 'European Tribes: Transcultural Diasporic Encounters' in Comparing Postcolonial Diasporas, ed. Michelle Keown, David Murphy and James Procter (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp. 19–36 - ISBN (13): 9780230547087
  • 'Diaspora and Utopia: Reading the Recent Work of Paul Gilroy and Caryl Phillips' in Diasporic Literature and Theory - Where Now?, ed. by Mark Shackleton (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008), pp. 2–17. ISBN (13): 9781443800136
  •  'Orphia in the Underground: Postcolonial London Transport' in Transport(s) in the British Empire and Commonwealth, ed. by Michle Lurdos & Judith Misrahi-Barak (Montpellier: Publications de L'Universit Paul-Valry, Montpellier III, 2006), pp. 389–405. ISBN 9782842697679
  • 'Fantasy Relationships: Black British Canons in a Transnational World' in A Black British Canon?, ed. by Gail Low and Marion Wynne-Davis (London: Palgrave, 2006), pp. 93–104. ISBN 1403942684
  • 'When Memory Dies: Tourism, Terror, and Literary Representations of the Sri Lankan Civil War' in Perspectives on Endangerment, ed. by Graham Huggan and Stephan Klasen (Hildesheim/Zrich/New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 2005), pp. 171–175. ISBN 3 487 13022 X
  • '"London Stylee!": Recent Representations of Postcolonial London' in Migrant Cartographies: New Cultural and Literary Spaces in Post-Colonial Europe, ed. by Sandra Ponzanesi and Daniela Merolla (Lanham: Lexington, 2005), pp. 229–238. ISBN 0 7391 0775 0
  • 'Postcolonialism and Minority Culture' in Arian Byw / Live Culture: A Positive Approach to the Crisis of Rural Welsh Language Communities, ed. by Dylan Iorweth et. al. (Wales: Y Ffwrwm, 2004), pp. 54–61.
  • 'Contesting Contexts: Francophone Thought and Anglophone Postcolonialism' in Francophone Postcolonial Studies: A Critical Introduction, ed. by Charles Forsdick and David Murphy (London: Arnold, 2003), pp. 192–201. ISBN 0 340 80802 0
  • 'Other Times: English Writing After Empire' in Across Cultures: Issues of Identity in Contemporary British and Sri Lankan Writing , ed. Neluka Silva and Raniva Wijesinha (Colombo: The British Council, 2001), pp. 132–139. ISBN 955 9055 28 3
  • 'J. G. Farrell and Post-Imperial Fiction' in J. G. Farrell: The Critical Grip , ed. by Ralph Crane (Four Courts Press: Dublin, 1999), pp. 178–195. ISBN 1 85182 421 0
  • 'Men Against Masculinity: The Fiction of Ian McEwan' in Signs of Masculinity, ed. by E. Liggins, A. Rowland and E. Uskalis (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998), pp. 218–245.  ISBN 90 420 0603 X
  • 'Living In-Between: Interstitial Spaces of Possibility in Timothy Mo's Sour Sweet' in Just Postmodernism , ed. by Stephen Earnshaw (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997)
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Professional memberships

  • Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture (ASAC)
  • Postcolonial Studies Association (PSA)
  • European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language (EACLALS)

Student education

The bulk of my undergraduate teaching and supervision concerns postcolonial, migrant, diasporic and contemporary literatures. At MA level I deal more specifically with Caribbean and black British writing, as well as offering supervision across the full range of postcolonial literary cultures.

Research groups and institutes

  • Critical Life Research Group
  • Literary studies

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="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>