Projects per year
I specialise in the cultural history of modern Britain and its global entanglements, with a particular interest in the histories of sexuality and the senses. My research draws on queer theory, the history of science, and urban history to explore two related questions: how new ways of sensing and thinking about ‘sense’ emerged from the late nineteenth century; and how these new sensory practices reshaped social relationships and the cultural norms and concepts derived from them in multiple areas of life.
My first book, Nervous Hands, Stolen Kisses, and the Press of Everyday Life: Touch in Britain, 1870-1960 (under contract with University of Chicago Press), examines how the understanding, experience, and practice of touch changed in modern Britain. It argues that touch is central to how we act and think about ourselves, others, and our environment and that changes in how touch was practised significantly reconfigured understandings of selfhood, appropriate social interaction, and conceptions of the mind and body. The book deconstructs touch as a unified category of experience, tracing its multiple, connected histories across different domains of knowledge, including the mind sciences, education, law, and consumer culture. At the same time, it shows how touch played a causative role in the formation of organizing concepts such as desire, objectivity, impairment, and personal boundaries and can therefore serve as a means to intervene in contemporary cross-disciplinary debates mobilizing these concepts.
My current research refocuses attention on the relationship between sensation, belonging, and scalar thinking over the nineteenth and early twentieth century. My next book project, Within Worlds: Longing and Belonging in the Docklands of London and Hong Kong, explores the historically specific relationship between sensing and ‘dwelling’ at local, national, and global scales. Beginning with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the project examines how the global histories of trade, migration, and imperial expansion developed in and through the microhistories of sensory encounters within the London and Hong Kong docklands. The project at the same time examines how through such sensory encounters the diverse constituencies of both docklands constructed multiple ‘worlds’ to inhabit which at once tied them to neighbourhoods and spanned oceans. In this way, the project provides an intimate history of two neighbourhoods which explores the sensory dimensions of belonging and shifting scales of being-in-the-world.
In other publications, I have explored how queer desire served as a way of thinking in—and way of rethinking—the history of science, and how photography might be understood as an interpretive event within contested imperial contexts.
Before joining Bristol as a lecturer, I previously held a visiting fellowship at Princeton University (2013-2014).
I am interested in supervising postgraduates on any topic relating to my research interests. This includes the cultural history of modern Britain as well as the histories of the senses, science, sexuality, photography, and urban culture in modern Europe and its imperial involvements from 1870.
I currently convene the following courses:
Brief Encounters: Love, Labour, and Loneliness in Modern London (second-year History unit)
History of the Present (first-year core Liberal Arts unit)
Dissertation (third- and fourth-year core Liberal Arts unit)
I also currently contribute lectures and seminars to the following courses:
Urban Worlds: From Ancient Baghdad to Las Vegas (first-year History unit)
Rethinking History (second-year History unit)
Progress or Peril? The History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (second-year History unit)
Dissertation (third-year History unit)
Phone: 0117 928 7623
Office: 1.38, 13 Woodland Road
Koole, S., 2021, (In preparation) University of Chicago Press.
Research output: Book/Report › Authored book
Koole, S., 2020, (In preparation) In: Past and Present.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article (Academic Journal) › peer-review