Dr Catherine Gilbert, research officer at the School of Advanced Study’s Centre for Postcolonial Studies, discusses her current research analysing the role of China’s official cultural institutions in Africa, and the resources she is working on for policymakers and scholars with an interest in the postcolonial world

With a background in French and Francophone Studies, my research interests lie primarily in postcolonial African cultures and literatures.

My PhD (University of Nottingham, 2013) focused on Rwandan women’s responses to trauma during the 1994 genocide. From a perspective of trauma theory, my thesis engaged with the published testimonies of Rwandan women genocide survivors, seeking to understand how the genocide is remembered both individually and collectively and the challenges Rwandan women face in the on-going process of surviving trauma.

I then went on to complete a one-year postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Nottingham as part of the AHRC-funded interdisciplinary project ‘Building images: exploring 21st-century Sino-African dynamics through cultural exchange and translation’, which examined patterns of translation import/export and China’s increasing cultural presence on the African continent.

My current research analyses the role of China’s official cultural institutions (Chinese Cultural Centres and Confucius Institutes) in Africa and the ways in which images of China are being culturally mediated or ‘translated’ for local African audiences through these institutions. This research will contribute to a deeper understanding of the nature of contemporary Sino-African relations and the need for increased cultural engagement in developing international relations.

The Centre for Postcolonial Studies (CPS) was founded in 2014 under the direction of Professor Andrew Hussey. Its mission is to make a significant contribution to the field of postcolonial studies and to highlight the value of policy-relevant research in the humanities. The CPS coordinates contributions from the School’s constituent institutes in London with the aim of promoting and advancing research into the postcolonial world and facilitating dialogue between policymakers and academic researchers. It also aims to become a London hub for UK postcolonial studies, activities and events, and for international research and collaboration.

Through my role as research officer, I am keen to promote and support research on all aspects of the postcolonial world and am developing a database of researchers and policymakers working in this field. I am currently organising the CPS’s inaugural event, which will take place in January 2016 and will explore potential collaboration with scholars of postcolonial studies from across the UK. I am also part of the editorial team for Francosphères, the University of London’s bi-annual journal of transcultural and intercultural French Studies, published by Liverpool University Press.

Please contact catherine.gilbert@sas.ac.uk if interested in becoming affiliated with the CPS.

Dr Catherine Gilbert joined the Centre for Postcolonial Studies (CPS) in September 2015. The research being advanced and promoted by CPS will not be limited to cultural or critical theory, which thus far has tended to be the dominant prism through which scholars have viewed the postcolonial world. This ambitious project also seeks to engage with empirical research in the fields of law, media, governance, counter-terrorism, health studies and business. It will bring together academics and practitioners to inform policy decisions through evidence-based research, and is expected to develop a new Masters programme of European decolonisation, will register post-graduate research students and seek external funding to develop research activities.

The next interview in this researcher series will be published on 5 January 2016 and focuses on Dr Tom Hulme’s work in the Institute of Historical Research’s Centre for Metropolitan History.

Featured image taken by Melissa Thackway