Maya Caspari

Maya Caspari


My research focuses on the representation of touch in contemporary world literature. Bringing insights from affect theory, postcolonial studies and trauma studies into dialogue, I examine how writers including Teju Cole, Han Kang, Katja Petrowskaja and Claudia Rankine negotiate the politics of relation through their experimental poetics. I am interested in how different histories of suffering are articulated and related to each other in these authors' texts, and more broadly, in the limits and possibilities of comparative reading.

In particular, I am interested in exploring what a feminist poetics of relation might mean in, and for, the contemporary moment, focusing on how narrative engagements with contingency may open space for new modes of relatedness. My project is funded by the WRoCAH AHRC consortium.

Research Activities

Before beginning my PhD, I worked at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), where I edited the ICA Bulletin and co-ordinated digital content. I am very interested in how academic research can be translated into public exhibitions, events and digital spaces. I have continued to work as a freelance writer and editor. This has included projects with the ICA, Frames of Representation (FoR) documentary festival and work as a freelance reader for Granta magazine. I also recently collaborated with the Critical Life research group to initiate an online platform for interviews, articles and discussion exploring the question of what it means to live and read critically today.

In June 2017, I completed a postgraduate internship at the Durban Holocaust Centre in South Africa, as part of the AHRC project "Mobilising Multidirectional Memory to Build More Resilient Communities in South Africa". During this time, I co-organised the symposium 'Life Narratives: Self-Representation in an Age of Human Rights', as well as a knowledge exchange event with museum professionals. I have recently also organised events including a screening and commemoration event in Durban, South Africa, and a public film screening of Concerning Violence + director Q&A, at Hyde Park Picturehouse, as part of the Archives of Resistance conference.

Conference Presentations

 'Feminist Resistance and World Literature: Melancholy, Touch and Performance in Teju Cole's Open City and Han Kang's The White Book', Archives of Resistance, Leeds, June 2018
'Touching Histories: Empathy in the Body of World Literature', Memory Studies Association Conference, December 2017
'The Poetics of Potentiality as Feminist Resistance', Sibéal Annual Conference: The Art of Resistance: Interdependencies and Co-Becoming, November 2017
'"Subjunctive Remembering" in Katja Petrowskaja's Vielleicht Esther', Life Narratives: Self-Representation in an Age of Human Rights, Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre (JHGC), June 2017
'The Limits of Cosmopolitan Empathy: Teju Cole's Open City', MANCEPT Workshops in Political Theory, University of Manchester, September 2017
'“Emigrants, as is well known, tend to seek out their own kind”: W. G. Sebald and the Ambivalence of Empathy', Beyond Sebald: New Trajectories in Sebald Studies, University of Leeds, May 2017
'Touching Histories: Multidirectional Memory in Katja Petrowskaja's Vielleicht Esther', Minorities and Minority Discourses in Germany since 1990: Intersections, Interventions, Interpolations, UMass Amherst, March 2017


'"Subjunctive Remembering" in Katja Petrowkaja's Vielleicht Esther' in Minority Discourses in Germany since 1990: Intersections, Interventions, Interpolations ed. by Ela Gezen, Priscilla Layne and Jonathan Skolnik (Berghahn, forthcoming)

'There are no "other" people: An Interview with Katja Petrowskaja', LA Review of Books, 2018

'The Future Perfect' (review), Another Gaze, 2018

'Teju Cole's Known and Strange Things' (review), Wasafiri, 2017

'The Art of Witnessing: Son of Saul' (review), ICA Bulletin, 2016

'The Past is Never Dead: An Interview with Joshua Oppenheimer', ICA Bulletin, 2015

'Impunity, Fear and Filmmaking: Joshua Oppenheimer's Documentaries' (review), ICA Bulletin, 2015

Funding and Awards

AHRC WRoCAH Doctoral Studentship (2016-2019)

WRoCAH KEP Award for Life Narratives and Human Rights Symposium (Johannesburg, 2017)

Provost's Studentship (UCL, 2013-4)

Fitzgerald Prize; Waugh Scholarship (University of Oxford, 2008-12)


  • BA English and Modern Languages (German), University of Oxford, First Class
  • MA Comparative Literature, UCL, Distinction

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for World Literatures