School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Staff Profile

Dr Hannah Durkin

Lecturer in Literature & Film

Background

Qualifications

PhD American Studies, University of Nottingham

MA American Studies, University of Nottingham

BA 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)

Administrative Responsibilities

Degree Programme Director for English Literature and Creative Writing

Research

Research Interests

Black Atlantic art, anthropology, autobiography, dance and cinema

Current Research

I have two current book projects. The first tells the stories of previously unidentified survivors of the Clotilda, the last U.S. slave ship. Drawing on a wide variety of historical materials, the book highlights the lifelong injustices that the Clotilda survivors endured, but it also uncovers the manifold and often surprising ways in which they resisted their experiences of transatlantic dislocation and enslavement and sought to hold onto their West African identities in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century U.S. South.  

The second 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 monograph, Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham: Dances in Literature and Cinema (University of Illinois Press, 2019) 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. A summary of my book published in Film History: An International Journal 31.4 (2019): p. 131 can be read here: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/748825

I am the co-author, along with Celeste-Marie Bernier, Alan Rice and Lubaina Himid, of Inside the invisible: Memorialising Slavery and Freedom in the Life and Works of Lubaina Himid (Liverpool University Press, 2019), the first book-length study of the work of Turner Prize-winning Black British artist and curator Professor Lubaina Himid CBE. 

With Celeste-Marie Bernier (University of Edinburgh), I  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: Caribbean-U.S. Cultures
SEL8536: Literary Geographies

Publications