My research emphasises the archive-based study of literary and cultural institutions, cultural policy, and organizations as definitive forces in twentieth and twenty-first century literary history. I am interested in how forms of political liberalism have shaped culture through these structures, and how acts of literary writing have responded to these demands in turn.
I first addressed these questions in my AHRC-funded thesis, Officially Autonomous: Anglophone Literary Cultures and the State since 1945, which examined how the modern state intervened to protect literary culture from the marketplace. Case studies included the activities of the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arts Council of Great Britain.
This research prompted me to consider the case of post-imperial Britain in particular. My first book State Sponsored Literature: Britain and Cultural Diversity after 1945 (OUP, 2020) established the changing justifications for state literary support in Britain across multiple institutional contexts, drawing heavily from public archives. It argues that the state acted as an integral custodian of literary freedom in this period, but also that changing beliefs about who constituted literature’s 'public' in the age of multiculturalism had a bearing on its expressive acts and how they were received. You can find out more, and access additional materials, at statesponsoredliterature.com
My next project aims to examine the institutional conditions behind the rise of English as a global language between 1930 and 1970, based on the activities of the British Council. I remain interested in the global histories of texts and their multivalent uses.
Other Recent Activities
I am a committee member of the Centre for Contemporary Literature and Culture and editorial Board member of the Journal for Postcolonial Writing (former Special-Issues co-editor with my colleague Dr Fariha Shaikh).
Other recent research projects I’ve curated include: