Sarah Jilani, King's

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

Realising the Nation, Re-making the Self: The Literature and Film of Decolonisation in Africa and South Asia


Biographical Information

After a BA (Hons) in English at The University of York (2012) and an MSt in English at The University of Oxford (2013), I wrote freelance on contemporary art, film and books for publications including The Economist, The Times Literary Supplement, The Independent and ArtReview. In 2017, I began my PhD at Cambridge with a joint AHRC-Isaac Newton Trust award.

Research Interests

My thesis considers early postcolonial (1950s-1970s) African and South Asian novels and films for their treatments of subjectivity in relation to decolonisation. The self remains a central concern for postcolonial studies: space and place were the objects of colonial domination, but the subjugation of the colonised, via the refusal and manipulation of their subjecthood, accompanied this. Working with a dialectical materialist conception of the self drawn from the thought of Frantz Fanon, I investigate eight texts for the relationship between subjectivity and the socio-economic lived experience of neocolonialism. A comparative and interdisciplinary methodology is key to this inquiry; I consider, in dialogue with one another, one novel or film each from Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Ayi Kwei Armah, Satyajit Ray, Buchi Emecheta, Kamala Markandaya, Ousmane Sembène, Ritwik Ghatak and Souleymane Cissé.

In relation to my PhD research and beyond, I am also interested in Third Cinema theory and practice; the cultural production of the mid-twentieth century's Third World internationalism; political consciousness; realism (in film and literature).

I have secondary research interests in the relationship between cinema and urban space, with a forthcoming chapter in the Palgrave Handbook on Digital and Public Humanities (2021) on "Civic Interaction, Urban Memory, and the Istanbul International Film Festival".

Areas of Supervision

I have taught the texts and concepts of postcolonial studies in both Cambridge's small group format and in large seminar format at other institutions. I have supervised a Part I dissertation on Leila Aboulela, a Part II dissertation on Derek Walcott, and supervised on Part II Paper 13 Postcolonial and Related Literatures in the 2019/20 academic year.  I welcome contact from students interested in working on any of the above or related topics, and from Directors of Studies seeking supervisors.

Selected Publications

"'The self and the world against which it had to live': Neocolonialism and the resistant subject in Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born". Journal of Postcolonial Writing 56:1 (2020).

"Intimate Epics". Review of "Contemporary Diasporic South Asian Women's Fiction" by Ruvani Ranasinha. Women: A Cultural Review 29:3-4 (2018). 

"Violence and Mimicry: 'The Battle of Algiers' at 50". The Oxonian Review 30.2 (2016).

"'Black' Spaces: Othello and the Cinematic Language of Othering".  Literature/Film Quarterly 43.2 (2015).

"Race, (In)Visibility and Subjecthood in Ralph Ellison's 'Invisible Man' and Toni Morrison's 'The Bluest Eye'".  Postgraduate English 29 (2014).