Department of Foreign Literatures and Linguistics
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
My life before BGU:
I was born and completed all my schooling in Haifa. My BA is from the Open University, and my MA and PhD are from the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Haifa, focusing on Anglophone African Literature. I then moved to the Hebrew University for my postdoc on literature and literacy in East Africa: first one year at the Leonard Davis Institute and Glocal International Development program, then four years at the Martin Buber Society of Fellows.
BGU’s Department of Foreign Literatures and Linguistics has a strong emphasis on minority literatures, with a unique focus on intersections of race, gender, and sexuality – some of the most urgent questions of our time. Combined with BGU’s Tamar Golan Africa Centre, which is home to the leading program for African studies in Israel, this is the perfect place for me as a researcher of African literature.
My research area is Anglophone African literature, mainly realist novels but also poetry, spoken word, and autobiography. In my work, I trace how specific historical elements – including oral traditions, indigenous faiths, colonial practices, and post-independence policies – register in modern literature, as a way to complicate the intuitive assumption that literature (and especially African literature) is a simple fusion of real historical contexts and fictional characters. The fact is that rather than the homogenous (and often stereotypical) image many of us non-Africans have of Africa, it is one of the world’s most diverse continents: some countries have more than 200 ethnic groups! This is the reason why so much of contemporary literature is written in English; at the same time, it also means that African English-language literature is incredibly diverse, and that there is a great gap in scholarship that zooms in on specific contexts. Having lived in Uganda and Kenya for some years, I currently look more closely at East Africa, and the way literature there has been influenced by the introduction of literacy during colonial times.
An insight from my research:
One of my favorite quotes is from Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina’s autobiography, where he writes “maybe I am not just failing.” He says this after having spent years failing to complete his university degree, doing little but hanging out with friends and reading books. But then he suddenly realizes that he was actually doing something all along – observing people and making them into stories in his head. In retrospect, it is evident that he really wasn’t “just failing,” because his decade of procrastination led him to become one of the most influential writers in Kenya. To me, the idea that we are “not just failing” is relevant to very many contexts: we tend to focus on success in narrow terms, in measurable terms, in productive terms. Yet very often, it is precisely our seeming-failures, our periods of procrastination, the times we focus on people rather than on productivity, which allow us to get at the more subtle aspects of life; at non-measurable things that are just as important to our overall wellbeing.
Something that doesn't appear on my CV:
As a literary scholar my work and my hobbies overlap almost perfectly: there is nothing I love more than literature - especially listening to audiobooks - and music, preferably from new artists and countries. My family comes from all over the world, and I use audiobooks and music to practice languages, which is a lot of fun (I love listening to Chimamanda Adichie in Swedish!).
A source of inspiration:
Toni Morrison. Her books are hauntingly beautiful, even when depicting the most horrendous histories, and leave you with a sense that every word has been choreographed meticulously. I especially love her essays and interviews in which she reflects on her own writing, and her audiobooks, most of which she narrates herself. More than any other author, she leaves me with an uncanny sense of affinity, like a friend who says just the right thing when you most need it.
When I grow up:
As a child I wanted to become an astronaut; today my dreams are a bit more down to earth: I’d love to find innovative ways to connect African scholars to international academia, and more generally foster collaborations (dare I say communities?) among researchers who have differential access to the rather narrow “centers” of academic production.
If I wasn’t a researcher, I would...
Either informal education or something creative, like writing or animating cartoons.
» Fauda or Big Brother? Neither! Can I instead say Borgen?
» Yoga or CrossFit? Yoga, theoretically
» Hapoel or Maccabi? Maccabi Haifa. I was such a fan as a child
» Ravid Plotnik or Noa Kirel? Noa Kirel, but just for my daughter’s sake
» Steak or tofu? Definitely tofu, or even better, seitan
» Trekking or the spa? Hiking, with good friends
» Car or train? Train! I’m so glad BGU has a great train connection, I have years of environmental guilt to atone for as I commuted to Jerusalem by car in all my five years as a postdoc
» Classical Europe or India? India, I’ve never been and would love to go
» Ocean or pool? Beach, whether sandy or rocky, cold or warm. Oceans are life
» Night or morning? Morning for working, nighttime for friends
» Winter or summer? Winter, I’m a January child
» City or country? City! I love the ease and variety of urban life
» Film or play? Both films and plays, depending on the quality and company
» Phone call or text message? Texting I suppose, habits of a new world. But I miss the hour-long phone talks of my pre-cellphone teenage years
» Savory or sweet? Savory
» Android or Iphone? Android, always
» Cat or dog? Both – our dog is the sweetest creature in the family and our five cats are bundles of joy spread out randomly across the house, with new postures of delight every day. There’s no way to choose between them!
» Facebook or Twitter? Facebook. It is the way I keep in touch with friends and family abroad