Dr Clare Barker

Dr Clare Barker

Lecturer in English Literature (Medical Humanities)

+44 (0)113 343 4750

Summary: Postcolonial literature (especially indigenous literatures and cultures); disability studies; medical humanities.

BA (Durham); MA (Leeds); PhD (Leeds); PGCLTHE (Birmingham).

I have been working at Leeds since 2012, having previously held a lectureship at the University of Birmingham, and I first developed my interest in postcolonial literatures and cultures when studying as a postgraduate here in the School of English at Leeds. Most of my research to date has intersected with the field of literary and cultural disability studies, and I am closely involved in the Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities.

I am Undergraduate Admissions Tutor for the School of English.

Research Interests

My research focuses on postcolonial literatures and cultures, and it engages centrally with disability studies and medical humanities. I’m interested in the ways in which disability, health, and illness are constructed and imagined in different cultural contexts, and in how fiction can shape and transform our understandings of embodiment, medicine, and health. My first book, Postcolonial Fiction and Disability: Exceptional Children, Metaphor and Materiality (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), analyses the representation of disabled children in postcolonial writing from South Asia, Africa, and New Zealand. It examines the metaphorical functions of disability within postcolonial writing, where disabled children are often understood to symbolise postcolonial nation-states – ‘damaged’ and fragile, yet embodying the potential for radical difference. Its central focus, though, is on the representation of disabled children as agents and citizens, exploring fictional engagements with the politics of healthcare, citizenship, normalcy, and discrimination in postcolonial societies.

With my colleague Stuart Murray, I have recently completed editing The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Disability (Cambridge University Press, 2017), which brings together experts in literary disability studies to explore the literary representation of disability across historical periods from medieval to contemporary literature, across cultural locations, across all major genres, and using a range of critical approaches. I have also co-edited two special issues of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies that focus on the connections between disability studies and (post)colonial texts and contexts – ‘Disabling Postcolonialism’ (2010, co-edited with Stuart Murray) and ‘Disability and Indigeneity’ (2013, co-edited with Siobhan Senier).

From 2012-2016 I was a Co-Investigator on an AHRC-ESRC Large Grant Project under the Connected Communities scheme, entitled ‘Representing Communities: Developing the Creative Power of People to Improve Health and Wellbeing’. I worked in collaboration with Qulsom Fazil from the University of Birmingham Medical School, and my strand of this project involved research on the representation of health and wellbeing in British Pakistani literature.

Current Research Projects

I currently hold a Wellcome Trust Seed Award to fund my next book project, which at the moment is tentatively entitled Genetics and Biocolonialism in Contemporary Literature and Film. This explores the differential ways in which genetic research (and biomedical research more widely) impacts upon ‘postcolonial’ communities. Indigenous communities in particular are often targeted for genetic research (for instance, in the Human Genome Diversity Project), and activists have framed medical science and the pharmaceutical industry as agents of ‘biocolonialism’, a term highlighting the power dynamics involved when minority groups are 'mined' for their genetic riches. I am interested in how genes, the human genome, and heredity are conceptualised across different cultural frameworks; in how cultural texts may contribute to popular understandings of genetic science and shape the interpretation of scientific research; and in how bioethical and legal concepts such as ‘informed consent’ and ‘intellectual property’ translate (or not) across different cultural frameworks. Indigenous literature and film – one of my enduring interests within postcolonial studies – are at the centre of this project.

I also have an ongoing interest in representations of the 1984 Bhopal disaster, which killed many thousands of people and, due to a groundwater supply which remains toxic, continues to cause congenital disabilities, reproductive disorders, and to affect the physical and mental health of local residents to the present day. I am interested in the ways that fictional writing intersects with other forms of disaster representation such as journalism, charity and aid campaigns, particularly with regard to the representation of sick and disabled people. I have worked in partnership with the Bhopal Medical Appeal to hold public engagement events, and continue to support their work raising funds for the healthcare of survivors and raising awareness about the disaster.

Postgraduate Supervision

I would welcome PhD applications in any of my main areas of interest, including: any aspect of disability representation in literature and film; comparative postcolonial literatures and cultures; indigenous literature and film; literary or interdisciplinary medical humanities topics.

I am currently supervising PhDs on the following topics:

  • ‘Space-Body Dynamics in Selected Works by Kamila Shamsie and Uzma Aslam Khan’
  • ‘"Tortured Ecologies": Environmental Disaster and Climate Discourse in Contemporary Women's Speculative Fiction’
  • ‘Postcolonial Representations of Age and Ageing in Caribbean and Aotearoa New Zealand Fiction and Film’.


I teach an undergraduate option module called ExtraOrdinary Bodies: Disability, Medicine, and Normalcy in Contemporary Literatures. Through a range of fabulous contemporary texts and an engagement with popular culture, this module explores the politics and aesthetics of disability representation and introduces students to disability theory. At MA level, my option module Global Indigeneity looks at indigenous literature and film from diverse locations including Canada, New Zealand, Hawai’i, North America, and Latin America, and considers the place of indigenous communities and cultural productions in contemporary globalised culture. I teach on the third-year core module, Postcolonial Literature, and have lectured on the first-year core modules on Prose and Poetry. I also provide a session on Literary and Cultural Disability Studies as a guest lecturer on the MA in Disability Studies’ core module, Debates on Disability Theory and Research.

I greatly enjoy teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels and am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I have a special interest in disability issues in higher education and I am committed to improving accessibility for students with physical and cognitive differences in whatever ways I can.



The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Disability, co-edited with Stuart Murray (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Postcolonial Fiction and Disability: Exceptional Children, Metaphor and Materiality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Edited special issues

Guest co-editor (with Siobhan Senier), Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 7.2, Special Issue: Disability and Indigeneity (2013).

Guest co-editor (with Stuart Murray), Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 4.3, Special Issue: Disabling Postcolonialism (2010).

Journal articles and articles in edited collections

‘Introduction: On Reading Disability in Literature’ (co-authored with Stuart Murray), in The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Disability, ed. Clare Barker and Stuart Murray (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 1-13.

‘“Radiant Affliction”: Disability Narratives in Postcolonial Literature’, in The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Disability, ed. Clare Barker and Stuart Murray (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 104-19.

‘Disability and the Postcolonial Novel’, in The Cambridge Companion to the Postcolonial Novel, ed. Ato Quayson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), pp. 99-115.

‘“The Ancestors Within”: Genetics, Biocolonialism, and Medical Ethics in Patricia Grace’s Baby No-Eyes’, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 7.2 (2013), 141-58.

‘Introduction’ (co-authored with Siobhan Senier), Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 7.2 (2013), 123-40.

‘Disabling Postcolonialism: Global Disability Cultures and Democratic Criticism’ (co-authored with Stuart Murray), reprinted in The Disability Studies Reader, ed. Lennard J. Davis, 4th edition (London: Routledge, 2013), pp. 61-73.

‘Disabling Postcolonialism: Global Disability Cultures and Democratic Criticism’ (co-authored with Stuart Murray), Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 4.3 (2010), 219-36.

‘Interdisciplinary Dialogues: Disability and Postcolonial Studies’, Review of Disability Studies, 6.3 (2010), 15-24.

‘“Bionic Waewae” and “Iron Crutches”: Turangawaewae, Disability and Prosthesis in Patricia Grace’s Dogside Story’, Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, 8.2 (2008), 120-33.

‘Self-Starvation in the Context of Hunger: Health, Normalcy and the “Terror of the Possible” in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 44.2 (2008), 115-25.

‘From Narrative Prosthesis to Disability Counternarrative: Reading the Politics of Difference in Potiki and the bone people’, Journal of New Zealand Literature, 24.1 (2006), 130-47.