Research team

Antwerp Centre for Digital humanities and literary Criticism (ACDC)

Expertise

I specialize in modern Spanish literary and cultural studies (from the eighteenth century to contemporary cultural production). I particularly focus on postcolonial studies, and the interrelationship between literature, nationalism, and political economy. Applying this framework, I wrote "The Spirit of Hispanism," a book examining the cultural and commercial relationships between Spain and Latin America between 1875 and 1936. The goal of this book was to analyze a Spanish movement, Hispanism that tried to create a neocolonial relationship between Spain and its former colonies that still influences contemporary transatlantic exchanges. Following my interest examining how literature and culture shaped Spanish colonialism, I am currently studying the representations of Spain’s African colonies in the cultural production of the nineteenth and twentieth century. I was also trained in gender theory and I have published several articles about women writers in nineteenth century Spain. In these works I have explored the impact of modernity practices in gender roles, the entrance of women writers in the literary market and the participation of women writers in a transnational, European literary scene.

Play-White: Racial Passing and Decolonial Images. 01/12/2020 - 30/11/2024

Abstract

This research introduces a critical approach to "racial passing" and its complicity with image production. In sociology "passing" is a person's ability to be regarded as a member of an identity group different from their own e.g. racial identity, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation. Someone who can pass for white is socially designated as one racial construct but performatively plays out whiteness. My research proposal grows out of a personal experience of racial passing. In my late 20s I learnt that in 1984 my mother was legally reclassified as white in apartheid South Africa She passed as white, or "played-white" (in South African vernacular) all of my childhood. Through this realisation along with a reflection on my image-making practice I embark on an investigation into passing, embodiment, self-presentation, and the aesthetic thresholds of identity. Current public debates on many European country's colonial history, its material and structural legacy, show there is no better moment to problematize this by encouraging a decolonial research approach to visual culture. Through my proposed research, I would like to extend this discussion further to the question of how colonialism is embodied in its subjects and images?

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The politics of publishing; researching encounters between artists' books and intersectional feminist tools. 08/10/2019 - 07/10/2023

Abstract

My research project addresses artists' books and the politics of publishing, creating forms to uncover forgotten histories in this field, through a critical design approach which includes feminist tools. I will work on a series of hybrid publications (paper, digital, spatial, oral) to re·activate objects and histories and re·circulate them. The goal of the research project is to make untold narratives visible and activate the relation with historical, present and initiatives and narratives. How to tell these stories: through individual figures, groups of people, through objects? How to fill in the blanks — address the things that disappeared and integrate them? How to archive and transmit these stories? How to shift the traditional focus on monographic objects to collective ones, from books to "ephemeras"? The artistic context of this research is that of artists' books and artistic publishing. The theoretical context is art history, and more specifically the history of artists' books, as well as gender and postcolonial studies. The political context is that of activists working to shape the way we deal with knowledge and history (depatriarchising and de-colonialising). The research methodology is built on critical, research-based design methods. Throughout, intersectional feminist (design) tools will be used, notably an attention to who speaks for whom, in order to find a balance between speaking about/for and letting the primary source speak.

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Research team(s)

The Philippines and Equatorial Guinea in the Spanish Literary Production of the Early Francoism (1939-1955). 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2023

Abstract

This dissertation project will investigate the representations of race and gender in a selected corpus of Spanish literary works about the Philippines and Equatorial Guinea. These works were written during the early Francoism (1939-1959), a period in which Equatorial Guinea was still a Spanish territory while the Philippines, not a Spanish colony any longer, was the object of imperial nostalgia in Spain. Recent studies have examined the existence of a colonial consciousness in Spanish modern literature although imperialistic dreams became especially pervasive during the Francoist period. At that time, the idea of the former Empire became an organizing symbol of Spanish nationalism and agglutinated several groups with expansionist aspirations. The doctoral student would undertake this project in the context of larger research conducted by the promotor and co-promotor around Peninsular literary works about the Philippines and Equatorial Guinea written between the late 19th century and the independence of Equatorial Guinea in 1968. Studies about the intersections between Spanish (post)colonial identity and its cultural production have mostly concentrated on the portrait of Latin America, while Spanish literary works concerning former and current territories in Asia and Africa have been far less explored. Comparative approaches between the Spanish treatment of the Philippines and Equatorial Guinea are also scarce despite presenting significant parallels as peripheral colonies. Among other parallels, this dissertation will focus on the representations of race and gender, which in these two territories did not respond to the phenomenon of mestizaje developed in Latin America. As part of its analysis on racial representation, this dissertation will investigate how the discourse of La Hispanidad appeared in these literary works. A reactionary ideology deployed by Francoism, La Hispanidad was presented as an egalitarian spiritual community composed of the past and current Spanish colonial territories. This dissertation will explore how these literary texts racialized the colonial other and employed the rhetoric of La Hispanidad. It will examine the tensions, contradictions or rhetorical strategies derived of these discursive coexistence. For its theoretical framework, this dissertation will drew upon numerous scholarly works on gender, race and nationalism in colonial discourse (Burbank and Cooper 2010, Gilroy 1993, McClintock 1995, Stoler and Cooper 1997; Wilder 2007) as well as in recent scholarship (Fischer Tiné) that has remarked the relevance of undertaking colonial discursive analysis from the perspective of affect and emotion theories (Ahmed). The approach will combine a close and distant examination of representation in texts. The distant reading will be done with digital tools and the corpus will be digitized. As a first step, the student will perform a topic modelling of the corpus and then the student will proceed to do a close reading analysis to explain the results of the key topics obtained during the first step.

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Cities of concrete: literature, film and urbanization in the Franco period (1939-1975). 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

From the late 1940s, cities in Spain began to grow rapidly. The mass migration of rural inhabitants resulted in the emergence of slums and shantytowns in the outskirts of the cities. The Franco regime, initially hostile to urban areas, which it saw as antithetical to its vision of society, sought to combat this phenomenon and developed a series of urban plans in an attempt to regulate—and segregate—the city. The urban discourses of the period were complex, however, and the government also encouraged, and facilitated, the construction of massive and uniform apartment complexes, which changed the face of the city. Unsurprisingly, cultural production in this period does not ignore these radical transformations. Throughout the Franco dictatorship, novelists and filmmakers interrogated aspects of the new city, often using novel forms and narrative techniques to do so, such as neorealism, science fiction, etc. The goal of this project is to analyse in what ways these narratives engaged with the Francoist city. It will argue that literature and film did not merely reflect the changing city. Rather, novelists and filmmakers actively participated in the creation of the imaginary around the city, by adopting, subverting and challenging urban discourses of the time. By looking at both Madrid and Barcelona, the project will seek to provide a full picture of the cultural reactions to Spain's large-scale urbanization during the Franco period.

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Reinventing The Philippines: Images and Literary Representations of the Islands in Late 19th Century Spanish Narratives (1872-1896). 09/12/2019 - 29/05/2020

Abstract

The study of Spanish colonial texts has been traditionally limited to the context of Latin America and conditioned by claims of difference in the Spanish colonial methods and discourses with regard to other European experiences. The distinct character of Spanish imperialism was typically argued to derive from practices of miscegenation and its divergent historical trajectory. The main objective of this study is to provide a theorization of the Spanish colonial discourse about the Philippines during the final years of the Spanish rule, in the last third of the nineteenth century. While other colonial powers were at their zenith in Asia, the Spanish colonial administration underwent significant readjustments at the same time as intellectuals wrote extensively about the nature of Spanish colonialism and its future in Asia. This project will analyse the literary representations of the islands in ten unknown narrative works of eight Spanish authors who travelled and lived in the Philippines. These literary articles and short stories aimed to produce knowledge in Spain about the remote colony, in line with other different political initiatives proposed by the Spanish government. The combination of all these administrative, economic, and social actions pursued a common twofold goal: to strengthen the relations between the metropolis and the colony in order to reinforce the Spanish control of the territory and prevent a possible revolution of the population of the islands – as it had previously occurred in the Latin American colonies-. Thus, in their works, the authors presented their personal experiences and considerations about the islands but offered a convenient image of the territory for the Spanish colonial interests. The research is based on a postcolonial approach, building upon different analysis of European colonial discourses about other colonized territories -mainly English and Spanish discourse about Africa and America-. This study will examine both the representation of the Filipino colonial subjects and the Spanish colonizers and it will be structured in different sections regarding the main topics described in the text: the influence of the environment, traditions and practices, gender issues - representations of masculinity and femininity-, education in the islands, and the role of the Spanish Church. The study of these subjects not only seeks to provide a holistic but detailed picture of the Spanish colonial discourse about the Philippines, but also intends to prove its close connection with the political and economic reforms implemented during this period. Finally, this research also attempts to rescue these unknown writings, which often have gone unnoticed by the critics despite their testimonial, social and literary value. The study of the Spanish colonial discourse about the Philippines in these works will provide a better understanding of the relations between the two nations, in their common colonial past and even during the years to follow.

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Networks of Resistance: The Ágora Literary Circle in Post-War Spain. 01/10/2018 - 28/02/2021

Abstract

This project focuses on a literary network active in Madrid in the decades following the Spanish War. Known as Ágora (1955-1973), the group ran a publishing house, a literary journal and a poetry prize and hosted a weekly soirée that attracted some of the most notable dissident writers and intellectuals in post-war Spain. Remarkably, the group was run by a woman, Concha Lagos, in a period when women were generally excluded from public life and relegated to domestic roles. After the Civil War, Franco implemented a policy of autarchy and isolationism. Scholars have often regarded the culture of this period as cut off from both Europe and the rest of the Spanishspeaking world. This project attempts to revise this inward-looking vision of post-war literature by showing how the Ágora circle managed to create a network of writers that extended not only throughout Spain but also beyond its borders, including Latin American, American, European and exiled Spanish authors. The goal of the project is to recuperate the exchanges among these writers and to trace the role of Ágora in creating a space for dissident literature and thought in post-war Spain. More specifically, it will examine how the circle promoted writers excluded from official literary circles (women, dissidents, etc.) and created contacts with foreign writers who helped to disseminate Ágora authors abroad and whose works were in turn translated and published by Ágora in Spain.

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