Dr Cecile Bishop

Personal profile

I joined the School of Modern Languages, Literature and Culture in 2013, following a Junior Research Fellowship at Somerville College, University of Oxford. I completed my PhD at King's College London in 2012, after studying at the University of Oxford and at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po).

Research interests

My main research interests are in francophone and postcolonial studies, with a growing emphasis on visual culture. I have written and published on a wide range of topics, including representations of postcolonial African dictatorship, literary evocations of the Rwandan genocide, colonial photography in the Belgian Congo, and more recently the representation of blackness in portraiture. My interdisciplinary research brings together a variety of media and genres, including literature, film, visual arts and political theory. Its overarching concern is to reassess the specificity and value of the aesthetic in the exploration of postcolonial themes. 

My first monograph, Postcolonial Criticism and Representations of African Dictatorship: The Aesthetics of Tyranny, was published by Legenda (Oxford) in July 2014. Based on my doctoral research, this book challenges the heavily politicized rhetoric of much postcolonial criticism, arguing for a new engagement with aesthetic experience. 

I have recently begun a new project, reassessing the role of the aesthetic in constituting racial difference and the boundaries of humanity. It examines portraits of black subjects in French and francophone culture from the revolutionary era to the contemporary period. By focusing on portraiture, a form that is closely bound up with shifting conceptions of what it means to be human, I examine the processes by which racialized bodies have been included and excluded from the norms of human subjectivity. Drawing on a wide range of discourses – including philosophy, art, literature, anthropology, natural history and anatomy, I explore the embodied experiences through which race has been defined, tracing their articulation through a variety of aesthetic and visual regimes. 

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