Maya Caspari

Maya Caspari

PhD Researcher

Summary: My research examines the representation of empathy and touch in contemporary world literature.

My PhD research explores the representation of empathy and touch in contemporary world literature, with a focus on authors including Katja Petrowskaja and Han Kang. I am interested in how different histories and memories of suffering are articulated and related to each other in recent texts, and the ethical implications of different forms and genres of representation.

Focusing on issues of gender and touch, and bringing insights from affect theory and recent discussions of cosmopolitanism into dialogue, my project explores how recent authors engage, problematise and extend recent critical and literary theorisations of empathy through their experimental poetics. In particular, I am interested in exploring what a feminist poetics of relation might mean in, and for, the contemporary moment, focusing on how narrative engagements with contingency may open space for new modes of relatedness.

Activities: Before beginning my PhD, I worked at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), where I edited the ICA Bulletin and co-ordinated digital content. I am very interested in the ways in which academic research might be translated into public exhibitions, events and digital spaces and have continued to work on projects with the ICA and Frames of Representation (FoR) documentary festival, as well as working as a freelance reader for Granta magazine.  I recently worked with the Critical Life research group to initiate an online platform for interviews, articles and discussion exploring the question of what it means to live and read critically today.

In June 2017, I completed a postgraduate internship at the Durban Holocaust Centre in South Africa, as part of the AHRC project "Mobilising Multidirectional Memory to Build More Resilient Communities in South Africa". During this time, I co-organised the symposium 'Life Narratives: Self-Representation in an Age of Human Rights', as well as a knowledge exchange event with museum professionals. I have recently also organised events including a screening and commemoration event in Durban, South Africa, and a public film screening of Concerning Violence + director Q&A and introduction by Katucha Bento, at Hyde Park Picturehouse, as part of the Archives of Resistance conference.

Recent conference presentations:

 'Feminist Resistance and World Literature: Melancholy, Touch and Performance in Teju Cole's Open City and Han Kang's The White Book', Archives of Resistance, Leeds, June 2018
'Touching Histories: Empathy in the Body of World Literature', Memory Studies Association Conference, December 2017
'The Poetics of Potentiality as Feminist Resistance', Sibéal Annual Conference: The Art of Resistance: Interdependencies and Co-Becoming, November 2017
'"Subjunctive Remembering" in Katja Petrowskaja's Vielleicht Esther', Life Narratives: Self-Representation in an Age of Human Rights, Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre (JHGC), June 2017
'The Limits of Cosmopolitan Empathy: Teju Cole's Open City', MANCEPT Workshops in Political Theory, University of Manchester, September 2017;
'“Emigrants, as is well known, tend to seek out their own kind”: W. G. Sebald and the Ambivalence of Empathy', Beyond Sebald: New Trajectories in Sebald Studies, University of Leeds, May 2017; 'Touching Histories: Multidirectional Memory in Katja Petrowskaja's Vielleicht Esther', Minorities and Minority Discourses in Germany since 1990: ​Intersections, Interventions, Interpolations, UMass Amherst, March 2017


'Subjunctive Remembering in Katja Petrowkaja's Vielleicht Esther' in Minority Discourses in Germany since 1990: Intersections, Interventions, Interpolations ed. by Ela Gezen, Priscilla Layne and Jonathan Skolnik (Berghahn, forthcoming)

'There are no "other" people: An Interview with Katja Petrowskaja', LA Review of Books, 2018

Interview: 'The Past is Never Dead: An Interview with Joshua Oppenheimer', ICA Bulletin, 2015

Selected Reviews:

'The Future Perfect', Another Gaze, 2018
'Teju Cole's Known and Strange Things', Wasafiri, 2017
'The Art of Witnessing: Son of Saul', ICA Bulletin, 2016
Impunity, Fear and Filmmaking: Joshua Oppenheimer's Documentaries', ICA Bulletin, 2015

Funding and awards:

AHRC WRoCAH Doctoral Studentship (2016-2019)

WRoCAH KEP Award for Life Narratives and Human Rights Symposium (Johannesburg, 2017)

Provost's Studentship (UCL, 2013-4)

Fitzgerald Prize; Waugh Scholarship (University of Oxford, 2008-12)