Joe Shaughnessy, Jesus

Degree: PhD
Course: CC
Supervisor: Dr Priya Gopal
Dissertation Title:

Speaking in the South: anticolonialism, modernities, and the re-writing of South Africa, India, and Aotearoa-New Zealand, 1915-39


Biographical Information

I studied literature at the University of Northampton, where I wrote on American modernist engagement with Graeco-Roman aesthetics for my undergraduate dissertation. I studied for a master’s degree in literature and cultural theory at the University of Sussex on a Chancellor’s Award Scholarship, where I wrote my thesis on Pasifika and Māori literary engagements with historiography. I then studied for a second master’s degree in world history at Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, funded by the 1975 Award Bursary, where I wrote on the New Zealand government’s wartime health strategies in Niue and the Cook Islands. 

Research Interests

My doctoral research argues for the centrality of literature to a transnational political imagination between South Africa, India, and New Zealand, circa 1900 to 1950. It will demonstrate how the circulation of Anglophone literature provoked and reflected political thought—as confidence in imperial longevity declined but before political rationalities had crystallised on the ‘post-colonial’ national unit. I argue that literary cultures and the gravity they exerted on cultural geographies constituted a pivotal theatre and incendiary for forms of transnationalist thought, which sought to weave cross-border and transoceanic associations, networks, and unities across and between these three regions. Such formulations aspired to redefine or modify the transcolonial imaginary that had governed an ecumenical cultural geography ‘under’ empire (links not only between Britain and its colonies, but a web of connections between the colonies themselves). These projects pursued transnationalist political thought without necessarily radically departing from the colonial symbolic order—for instance, promoting new racial orders, post-imperial white federationism, and socio-political belonging in the imperial civitas. Though these imaginaries could have a powerful conceptual urgency for a time, they did not necessarily furnish permanent—and rarely stable—transnational links. The ambition for this project is that it will demonstrate a multiplicity of literary dialogue with transnationalist paradigms—from aspects closely twinned to the colonialist philosophy (despite their proclaimed divergence) to those that confront and refuse the transnational political order of British colonialism.

Some of the writers I am thinking through include Olive Schreiner, W.C. Scully, Sol T. Plaatje, Pauline Smith, Rabindranath Tagore, Mulk Raj Anand, Sarojini Naidu, Katherine Mansfield, Robin Hyde, Jane Mander, Frank Sargeson, and Hector Bolitho. The project is supervised by Dr Priyamvada Gopal and I am generously funded by the AHRC.

Beyond my doctoral thesis, I am interested broadly in post/colonial literatures, theories, and histories, particularly of southern Africa, South Asia, and the Pacific, across the longue durée (mostly Anglophone). I am also concerned with the North Atlantic avant-garde, poststurcturalism, Marxism, forms of global historiography (particularly oceanic/transoceanic), and science fiction. Some of my favourite writers (beyond my PhD of course) include Mina Loy, Chinua Achebe, J. M. Coetzee, Patricia Grace, Salman Rushdie, Virginia Woolf, Anton Chekhov, Charles Baudelaire, Aminatta Forna, Elizabeth von Arnim and Frank O’Hara.