Dr David Firth


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I specialise in Postcolonial Literature and Theory, with a specific emphasis on South African culture, Marxist criticism, and world-systems theory.

My PhD examined the work of South African writer Nadine Gordimer, considering how the form and content of her work allows readers to conceive of apartheid not simply as a system of racial segregation but as a form of 'racial capitalism'. My research drew heavily on approaches from environmental humanities, expanding concepts of cognitive mapping, uneven development, and structural/slow violence, as well as considering the Space Race from an African point of view. I'm currently rewriting the thesis as a monograph.

In December 2018, I won an AHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, as part of the Creative Economy Engagement Fund, to complete research and public engagement activities on the theme of 'virtual reality (VR) as a form of postcolonial storytelling'. As a Creative Economy Fellow, I have built a partnership with the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) in Liverpool, joining their team as a Researcher in Residence for 2019. The research explores how immersive virtual experiences may encourage forms of 'postcolonial empathy' and foster new perspectives on difficult heritage and our shared colonial past. To explore this practically, I developed a partnership with South African-based VR collective Electric South, and with their support I ran a free 3-day public VR exhibit of The Other Dakar, a °360 film directed by Sengalese fashion designer Selly Raby Kane. I also organised an International Showcase event featuring work by artists from across the UK, as well as Canada, India, South Africa, Senegal, and Malta, and roundtable discussions with academics. The theme of my fellowship is part of a much larger postdoctoral project that I have developed on the intersection of emerging technology and postcolonial discourse.

I have taught at all levels in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. As the School's Coordinator of the PGT Skills Training Programme, we offer 100+ sessions for our 600+ postgraduate students each academic year. I also lead the 'From Chapter to Article' workshop series for PGRs in the Faculty of Humanities, as part of the Arts Methods programme.

While I have been based at the University of Manchester, I have passionately helped to support the profile of postcolonial studies here. I worked for 2 years as Lead Organiser of the Manchester Postcolonial Studies Group, expanding the group's membership and activities, leading the monthly reading group, and running two annual series of the Postcolonial Atelier. In 2017, I was elected to the Executive Committee of the Postcolonial Studies Association (PSA), taking on the responsibility of Executive Secretary. I am Co-Chair for the biennial PSA Convention, which is to be held in Manchester in 2019.

Memberships of committees and professional bodies