Belle West


I am a former student of Comparative Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. During my master’s by research, I specialised in the application of philosophical and sociopolitical ideas and theories to nineteenth-century French and English Literature – namely the work of Victor Hugo, Émile Zola and George Eliot. As a current PhD student in the Arts and Humanities School at the University of Leeds, I now focus on the history of Siberia and representations of human migration and displacement in the visual culture of Imperial Russia. My seminar for second-year LEAP undergraduates at the University of Leeds focused on human migration in twentieth and twenty-first century art and photography. The workshop entailed a comparative study of discourses on migration in the visual culture of The Great Migration and the Windrush Generation for Black History Month 2021. 

As a PhD tutor, I have also catered to the needs of pupils with SEND and pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, as part of my work in the charity sector and for the National Tutoring Programme during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have delivered high-quality virtual and in-school teaching (in line with the national curriculum for GCSE English Language and Literature and KS2 Art History) and liaised with teachers and programme officers to help improve the attainment of over 50 less advantaged pupils and to widen access to Higher Education. Over the summer of 2021, I designed a course on depictions of refugees and migrants in visual culture, and how this visual culture can help us understand the nature of their experiences and assess political and social categorisations of migration. I interviewed and liaised with photographers, artists and the team at Create London about related projects for the course. This course was taught during the winter 2022/23.

Research interests

My research in Slavonic Studies centres on the history of vagrancy, exile and human migration, and the cultural and social history of Imperial Russia and Eastern Europe. I specialise in researching social, intellectual and cultural phenomena surrounding the art and literature of Eastern Europe, as well as migration, ethnic minorities, travellers, vagrancy and exile in the nineteenth century. I am a specialist of the cultural history of migration and exile to Siberia. I am fascinated by the relationship between people and their urban and rural environments as depicted in visual culture, novels and poetry. I support my cultural research through language-learning and creative practice as an artist, illustrator and photographer. One of my key research aims is to show the importance of culture as a means of understanding how humans connect with their rural and urban environments. My research in visual culture has one other important aim: to go beyond Eurocentric approaches to understand and promote the idiosyncrasies of world cultures. 

  • medieval to modern history of Eastern Europe and Siberia
  • history of rural communities, vagrants and wanderers
  • history of mining communities and exploration
  • internal migration in the Russian Empire
  • Sergei V. Ivanov and the Peredvizhniki 
  • C19th-20th Russian literature and art
  • migration history and nomadism
  • agricultural history of Russia
  • The Americas in the C19th


  • Masters by Research in Comparative Literature and Culture
  • First-Class BA (Hons) Humanities with Literature

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Endangered Languages, Cultures and Ecosystems
  • Leeds Russian Centre
  • Art practice as research
  • Environmental Humanities Research Group
  • Russian and Slavonic Studies
  • Centre for Aesthetic, Moral and Political Philosophy
  • Design history and material culture