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Dr Catherine Gilbert

Gilbert_CatherineTeaching Fellow in Comparative Literature & English

Twitter handle @CathJGilbert

Tel +44 (0)20 7848 7152
Department of Comparative Literature
King's College London
VWB 6.12
22 Kingsway
London WC2B 6LE


Dr Catherine Gilbert joined King’s College London in September 2016. Prior to King's, she was a Postdoctoral Research Officer in the new Centre for Postcolonial Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, where she had primary responsibility for organinsing the activities of the Centre and setting up an academic network in Postcolonial Studies. In 2014-2015 she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham, working on the AHRC-funded project ‘Building Images: Exploring 21st century Sino-African dynamics through cultural exchange and translation’.

Dr Gilbert has a BA in French and Francophone Studies (University of Nottingham) and an MA in French Language and Literature (McGill Univeristy). She obtained her PhD in French and Francophone Studies from the University of Nottingham in 2014. She has previously worked as a translator and a learning support assistant for students with disabilities. She is the Associate Editor for the journal Francosphères, published with Liverpool University Press.

Research interests and PhD supervision
  • Postcolonial literatures, especially from sub-Saharan Africa
  • Francophone women’s writing and life-writing
  • Trauma, testimony, memory
  • Cultural translation and soft power
  • China-Africa relations

With a background in French and Francophone Studies, Dr Gilbert’s research interests lie primarily in postcolonial African literatures and cultures. Her PhD focused on the testimonial literature of Rwandan women genocide survivors, exploring the narrative strategies used to convey the experience of genocide and the challenge these narratives pose to conventional Western modes of responding to trauma. A monograph based on her PhD, From Surviving to Living: Voice, Trauma and Witness in Rwandan Women’s Writing, is currently under review with the Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée (PULM).

Following the PhD, Dr Gilbert has gone on to work on the cultural relations between China and Africa, examining the translation and circulation of Chinese literature and other types of cultural and media products in Africa. She recently completed a study of Chinese book donations to Africa, situating these donations within China’s broader expansion of its cultural soft power abroad.

Dr Gilbert is currently developing a project exploring the ways in which Rwandan women living in the diaspora negotiate the means through which to tell their stories in their host communities and how memory can move between geographical and cultural spaces through narrative. This project will also consider the role of women’s community groups and how memory is mobilised across the diaspora in order to support survivor organisations back in Rwanda.

Selected publications

‘China Corner: Circulating Chinese Literature in Africa’, in China and Africa: Building Images through Cultural Co-operation, Media Representation and ‘On the Ground’ Activities, ed. by Kathryn Batchelor and Xiaoling Zhang (Routledge, 2017 – forthcoming)

‘(Mis)Leading Paratexts: Translating Rwanda for the West’, in Translating the Postcolonial, ed. by Judith Misrahi-Barak and Srilata Ravi (PULM, 2017 – forthcoming)

‘Making the Impossible Possible? Collaboration in Rwanda Women’s Testimonial Literature’, in The Unspeakable: Representations of Trauma in Francophone Literature and Art, ed. by Névine El Nossery and Amy L. Hubbell (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013), pp.115-136.

‘Rwandan Women’s Testimonial Literature: Une écriture du silence’, Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies, 5.1 (2012), pp.9-18.

‘Entre témoignage et fiction: Le Livre d’Emma de Marie-Célie Agnant’, Dialogues francophones, 16 (2010), pp.277-289.

Dr Gilbert teaches for both the Department of Comparative Literature and the Department of English in the following areas: African literature; testimony (the Holocaust and Rwanda); travel writing; postcolonial theory.
Expertise and public engagement

Dr Gilbert has contributed to a number of cultural blogs and online publications, including Africa in Words and The Conversation: Africa. In 2015, she was interviewed for leading French newspaper Le Monde about her work on China’s cultural diplomacy in West Africa.

She is on the steering committee of the Reframing Gendered Violence Research Network (Columbia Global Centers) and is a member of the Transnational Holocaust Memory Network (University of Leeds). She is currently Conference Secretary for the Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies, and served for three years as Book Reviews Editor to the Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies.

Dr Gilbert is also part of a team of researchers who engage regularly with ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) students at the Cardinal Hume Centre, London. Most recently, she participated in a ‘flipped learning’ event exploring the importance of Shakespeare to the humanities, as part of the Shakespeare 400 celebrations.

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