Benjamin Klein, Fitzwilliam

Degree: PhD
Course: 1830-PD
Supervisor: Dr Chris Warnes
Dissertation Title:

South African Literature and Environmental Justice

Biographical Information

I completed my BA and BA Honours degrees at the University of Cape Town, where I wrote a dissertation on the contemporary French writer Michel Houellebecq. I thereafter joined the university’s Environmental Humanities South programme, where I completed my MPhil and produced a dissertation on environmental politics and decoloniality in the global South. In 2017 I was awarded the Dorothie Hewlett Scholarship by the School of English at the University of Leeds, where I completed my MA and wrote a dissertation on human-animal relationships in the novels of the contemporary Mozambican writer Mia Couto. This has since been published in article form in the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry.

Research Interests

My PhD research traces the development of an environmental justice perspective attuned to the intersecting realities of racism, inequality and environmental destruction in modern South African writing. I argue that a re-assessment of South African literary and cultural production from the late nineteenth century to the post-apartheid present in the light of such a perspective has significant contributions to make to current debate around environmental sustainability in South Africa and future participation in environmental activism in the global South. Some writers I consider for this project include Sol T. Plaatje, Thomas Mofolo, Bessie Head, Nadine Gordimer, J. M. Coetzee, Zakes Mda, K Sello Duiker and Henrietta Rose-Innes.

My more general research interests alternate between contemporary eco-/environmental criticism and postcolonial thought, with a broad concern for literary engagements with the nonhuman world across varying historical, cultural and geographical contexts in the global South. Moreover, I am interested in the possible alliances between ecological and decolonial objectives in the context of climate disorder and the politics of race, gender, class, knowledge and contemporary geopolitics.

Areas of Supervision

I offer supervision for the English Tipos Paper 13 (Postcolonial and Related Literatures) on areas relating broadly to African literature.

Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

‘Animals, Animism and Biosemiotics: Reimagining the Species Boundary in the Novels of Mia Couto’, Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 6.3 (2019), pp. 329-346

‘Defamiliarising the Human-Animal Relationship: Animals, Disease, and the Ethics of Kinship in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man’, Oxford Research in English (Fall 2019), pp. 105-122


'Of Land, Bones, and Money: Toward a South African Ecopoetics, by Emily McGiffin', Research in African Literatures, 51.2 (2020), pp. 224-225 

'Safari Nation: A Social History of the Kruger National Park, by Jacob S. T. Dlamini', South African Historical Journal (2021)