Research Centre for Film and Digital Media

Staff Profile

Dr Hannah Durkin

Lecturer in Literature & Film

Background

Qualifications

PhD American Studies, University of NottinghamMA American Studies, University of NottinghamBA English Literature & History, Lancaster University
Previous Positions

Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow, University of Nottingham (2013-16)
Postdoctoral Co-director, Centre for Research in Race and Rights, University of Nottingham (2015-16)

Memberships

Caribbean Studies Association
Collegium for African American Research
Society for Caribbean Studies

Administrative Responsibilities

Schools Liaison Officer

Research

Research Interests

Black Atlantic art, anthropology, autobiography, dance and cinema

Current Research

My current book project examines Black and Jewish women’s contributions to mid-century ethnographic and autobiographical writing, cinema and modern dance. Focusing on African Americans Zora Neale Hurston, Eslanda Goode Robeson and Katherine Dunham, Dunham’s Jewish and Ukrainian-born former secretary Maya Deren, and Trinidadian-American Pearl Primus, who had a Jewish grandfather and husband, I show how ethnographic film became a key device for Black and Jewish women seeking to revise racialised and gendered scientific and cultural paradigms. In so doing, I trace overlooked links between the emergence of modernism and anthropology and offer a new reading of modernism that rectifies occlusions of European, male and urban configurations. The project has two broad aims: to recover the work of leading Black and Jewish women artist-anthropologists and to chart connections between their fieldwork and their art. I map for the first time the creative techniques that they devised in Black communities in the US South, the Caribbean and Africa to facilitate cross-cultural exchange. I then show how these women, excluded by sexual and racial barriers from pursuing conventional academic careers, transferred these techniques to cinema, dance and literature to create radical revisionings of Black women’s identities on stage, screen and in writing.

Previous Research

My previous research centred mainly on literary and cinematic representations of mid-century Black dance. My doctorate, which is now a forthcoming book contracted to the University of Illinois Press, examined the international film careers and writings of Josephine Baker (1906-1975) and Katherine Dunham (1909-2006), the two most critically and commercially successful Black women dancers of the twentieth century.

With Celeste-Marie Bernier (University of Edinburgh), I also recently co-edited Visualising Slavery: Art Across the African Diaspora (Liverpool University Press, 2016), which stemmed from a conference at the University of Oxford, and which brings together artists and academics across Art History, Visual Culture, Slavery Studies, African American Studies, Black British Studies and African Diaspora Studies.

Future Research

My future research seeks to map the pioneering contribution of African, African American and Caribbean artists to mid-century British visual culture. It traces their wide-ranging influence on British art, cinema, dance, television and theatre to demonstrate that Black Atlantic cultural production had a crucial artistic influence on inter- and post-war Britain. The project has two broad aims: to rectify the Black Atlantic’s enduring occlusion from British cultural histories, and to chart such artists’ two-way engagement with the nation’s colonial culture immediately prior to and during the British Empire’s decline. 

Teaching

SEL1030: Close Reading
SEL2206: Contemporary Cultures
SEL3388: Reading Contemporary Cultures

Publications