Dr Kirk B Sides

Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, BA (Florida)

  • BS8 1TB

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Personal profile

Research interests

I joined the University in 2017 as Lecturer in World Literatures in English. Before this I was Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Institute for Social and Economic Research in Johannesburg, South Africa, where my research focused on histories of African literatures as well as the future of ecological thinking in writing and film from Africa. My Ph.D. in Comparative Literature was obtained from the University of California, Los Angeles for work that looked at both the relationship of anthropology to literature, as well as at discourses of creolization in African literary production. 


My current manuscript, African Anthropocene: The Ecological Imaginary in African Literatures, focuses on the relationship between ecological thinking, science/speculative fiction and anticolonial and antiracialist politics in African literatures. I am particularly interested in looking at a long history of what can be called an ecological imaginary in African literatures, from the early twentieth century up to the present turns to African science and speculative fiction, which challenge universalizing notions of the Anthropocene. I have published various articles and chapters from this research, including in the Journal of Postcolonial Literary InquirySafundi: Journal of South African and American StudiesCritical Philosophy of Race and The Postcolonial World (Routledge). 


My other research area looks at life and living well in the face of climate change. Titled ‘Anthropocene Storytelling: Practices of Past and Future Life’, this work brings together various methodologies, from literary eco-criticism, to engaged fieldwork, to urban geography, in order to explore practices of living in times of environmental and planetary uncertainty. Based currently on research sites in the United States, Botswana, and the U.K., this project focuses on the power of stories and storytelling to not only capture local ecological knowledge, but also to potentially impact policy on development and investment. The project works in various sites to interview cultural producers/performers, city officials and academics in order to think about how local communities engage both culture and policy in order to address issues effecting their environments.This project also forms the basis of pedagogical research into teaching from eco-critical perspectives and has developed into a workshop series run in collaboration with poet and teaching artist Tjawangwa Dema. ‘Anthropocene Storytelling: Ecological Writing and Pedagogies of Planetary Change’ workshop website here: https://sites.psu.edu/anthropocenestorytelling/


My teaching includes Convening a unit for the English Department on ‘Decolonizing Literature and Literary Studies’ as well as a seminar on ‘Postcolonial Environments’. 


I am also the Director of a university-level course for the Bristol Futures Initiative under the theme of Global Citizenship. The course, ‘City Futures: Migration, Citizenship and Planetary Change’, uses engaged pedagogies such 3D digital course maps and video-lab workshops, and asks students to take visual field notes as they explore the city of Bristol. The course looks at Bristol through various analytical lens, from histories of maritime trade to contemporary issues of air pollution and the effects of climate change, in order to think about both the history of cities as globally connected as well as the future of urban life on the planet. Course trailer link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmLzuRvW5dA&feature=youtu.be


I would welcome applications from students working in the field of African literary studies, and as well as from world or postcolonial literatures more broadly. I would especially welcome projects that look at the intersections of climate change, eco-criticism and environmental thinking in African Literatures. I am also happy to consider projects that are further afield but that work at the intersection of science fiction and eco-criticism, or the Anthropocene in world literatures. 


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