Professor Elleke Boehmer

Elleke Boehmer, BA (Hons), MPhil (Oxon), DPhil (Oxon), FRSL FRHistS FEA, is Professor of World Literature in English in the English Faculty, University of Oxford. She is the Director of the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW) and Professorial Governing Body Fellow at Wolfson College. 

Elleke Boehmer is a founding figure in the field of colonial and postcolonial literary studies, and internationally known for her research in the anglophone literatures of empire and anti-empire. Her writing straddles a range of forms and genres, including cultural history, fiction, criticism, and life-writing. She is a Fellow of the Royal Literary Society and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She holds an Honorary Doctorate from Linnaeus University, Sweden.

In 2020-21, Elleke Boehmer is a British Academy Senior Research Fellow working on Southern Imagining, a major literary and cultural history about perceptions of the southern hemisphere. The study interweaves Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Herman Melville alongside J.M. Coetzee, Benito Lynch, Zakes Mda, and Alexis Wright, among many other southern writers.

accelerate hub narrative workshop group march

Elleke is the Humanities lead on the GCRF UKRI funded Accelerating Achievement for Africa’s Adolescents Hub (Accelerate Hub), 2019-23, and is involved in exploring the role of narrative and intervention in a range of African contexts. See The Conversation article Better access to stories can improve adolescent lives in Africa. The photograph (left) shows the 'Narrative and Adolescence' March 2020 workshop group.

postcolonial poetics book cover

Professor Boehmer is the PI on the widely-cited website Writers Make Worlds, an open educational resource for Black and Asian writing in Britain today. The website grew out of the Fell-funded Postcolonial Writers Make Worlds project (2016-18) which asked how our reading of British literature works as a dynamic medium through which new ways of thinking about Britain, and Britain in the world can be shaped.

Elleke Boehmer was the second Director of TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities), 2015-17, and PI on the Andrew W. Mellon-funded 'Humanities and Identities' project, 2017-18. She convenes with Professor Ankhi Mukherjee the internationally renowned Postcolonial Writing and Theory seminar which meets fortnightly in term.

Boehmer’s research explores issues of migration, identity, reception, nation, race and gender representation; and world literature and postcolonial debates, particularly relating to sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and contemporary Britain. Postcolonial Poetics (2018), Boehmer’s sixth monograph, is a study of how we read postcolonial and world literatures today, and how the structures of that writing shape our reading. The book asks how postcolonial texts might offer ways not only of representing but of thinking through postcolonial identities.

Her Indian Arrivals 1870-1915: Networks of British Empire (2015) was a critical historical investigation of South Asian contributions to British literary, social, cultural and political life in the period 1870-1915. Indian Arrivals won the ESSE biennial prize (2015-16).

Elleke Boehmer’s most recent fiction is The Shouting in the Dark (2015 and 2019), co-winner of the Olive Schreiner Prize for Prose, 2018. To the Volcano (2019) is her second book of short stories, commended for the Australian Review of Books Elizabeth Jolley Prize, and longlisted for the Edgehill Prize. For more on Elleke Boehmer's fiction please visit

Rothenstein & Tagore

Left: Elleke's monograph Indian Arrivals discusses the Modernist friends and collaborators, William Rothenstein and Rabindranath Tagore, here seen meeting on 7 July 1912.

A mother-tongue speaker of Netherlands, Elleke is interested in comparative inter-relations between colonial, postcolonial and migrant writing in English and Dutch, as captured in The Postcolonial Low Countries, edited with Dr Sarah de Mul. In 2021 she will publish two essays on the ‘Dutch Conrad’ Louis Couperus, co-written with Dr Coen van ‘t Veer (Leiden).

Elleke Boehmer is the General Editor of the successful Series, Oxford Studies in Postcolonial Literatures (OUP). Series titles include: Postcolonial Poetry in English by Rajeev Patke (2006), and Postcolonial Life Writing by Gillian Whitlock (2016). East African Literatures by Russell West-Pavlov is the latest title in the series.

Professor Boehmer currently supervises DPhil/PhD students working on transnationalism, globalization and postcolonial literature; COVID narratives; J.M. Coetzee in the Hispanophone world; crisis in the American Novel; settler colonial writing and book prize cultures; and the early Derek Walcott.

She teaches undergraduate and MSt courses on literatures of empire and nation, postcolonial literature, Australian, Indian and South African fiction and poetry in English. She was the founder convenor of the MSt in World Literatures in English in the English Faculty.

boehmer and morton final terror and the postcolonial book cover

Elleke Boehmer has edited and co-edited collections of essays on transnationalism, the new South Africa (1990 and 2005), Indian postcolonialism, and on questions in postcolonial aesthetics. A collection of critical essays on Terror and the Postcolonial, co-edited with Dr Stephen Morton, appeared from Wiley-Blackwell in 2009.

Elleke Boehmer was a Rhodes Scholar (1985-88), and is now a Rhodes Trustee (2016- ).

Elleke was PI on the 2014-16 Leverhulme-funded International Network ‘Planned Violence. An essay collection rising from the Planned Violence project, Planned Violence: Post/colonial infrastructures and Literature, co-edited with Dominic Davies, appeared from Palgrave Macmillan in 2019.  

Among Elleke Boehmer’s best-known publications is the internationally cited and widely translated Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors (Oxford UP, 1995; 2nd edn 2005). She probably most enjoyed researching Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial, 1890-1920 (Oxford UP, 2002; paperback 2004) which investigates transnational links between anti-colonial movements, including between Ireland and India. She is currently preparing a second edition of her 2008 Nelson Mandela: A Very Short Introduction (OUP).

She edited the anthology Empire Writing, 1870-1918 and the British bestseller Scouting for Boys, Robert Baden-Powell's primer of the Scout movement (2004; pb 2005). A new edition of Scouting for Boys appeared from Oxford World’s Classics in September 2018.

Essays and articles by Elleke Boehmer 2011-2021 include:

  • With Archie Davies and Zimpande Kawanu. ‘Interventions in adolescent lives in Africa through story.’ Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. 2021.
  • ‘Storying ourselves: Black Consciousness thought and adolescent agency in 21st-century Africa’. Journal of Postcolonial Writing. Under review 2021.
  • ‘The “Dutch Conrad” Louis Couperus’s De stille kracht (The Hidden Force, 1900): working between Joseph Conrad and Oscar Wilde’. The Conradian. 2021.
  • ‘The south in the world’. Worlding the South. Edited by Sarah Comyn and Porscha Fermanis. Manchester UP. 2021. pp. 378-91.
  • ‘Reflecting (upon) Ellipsis: Katherine Mansfield as Case Study’. Katherine Mansfield: New Directions. Ed. Aimee Gaston, Gerri Kimber and Janet Wilson. Historicizing Modernism series. London: Bloomsbury, 2020. pp. 29-42.
  • ‘No home to visit: Dambudzo Marechera’. The Lives of Houses. Edited by Hermione Lee and Kate Kennedy. Princeton: Princeton UP. 2020. pp. 189-200.
  • ‘Mandela and Beyond: Thinking New Possibility in the 21st century’. Journal of Southern African Studies. 45.6. 2019 pp. 1173-1181.
  • ‘Publishing, the Curriculum and black British writing today’. Wasafiri 34.4. 2019. pp. 115-21. With Erica Lombard.
  • ‘On beyond the representational binary: Coetzee (and the women) take wing’. Reading Coetzee’s Women. Edited by Melinda Harvey and Sue Kossew. Palgrave Macmillan 2019. pp. 239-44.  
  • ‘The mind in motion: A cognitive reading of W.B. Yeats’ “Long-legged Fly”’. In Reading beyond the Code. Edited by Terence Cave and Deirdre Wilson. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2018. pp. 23-34.
  • The Future of the Postcolonial Past: beyond Representation . Leiden University Press (2018).
  • ‘Making Freedom: Jawaharlal Nehru’s An Autobiography (1936) and The Discovery of India (1946)’. In Fighting Words Fourteen Books That Shaped the Postcolonial World. Eds. Dominic Davies, Erica Lombard, and Benjamin Mountford. Oxford: Peter Lang (2017) pp. 121-134.
  • ‘Differential Publics—Reading (in) the Postcolonial Novel’ . Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 4(1), pp 11–25 January 2017.
  • ‘The world, the text and the author: Coetzee and untranslatability’ . European Journal of English Studies, 20(2) (2016) with Lynda Ng and Paul Sheehan.
  • ‘The View from Empire: The Turn-of-the-Century Globalizing World’. In Late Victorian into Modern. Eds. Laura Marcus, Michèle Mendelssohn, and Kirsten E. Shepherd-Barr, Oxford University Press (2016).
  • The 1990s: An increasingly postcolonial decade’. Journal of Commonwealth Literature 50.3 (2015). With Alex Tickell.
  • Literature, planning and infrastructure: Investigating the Southern City though postcolonial texts’. JPW 51.4 (2015).  With Dominic Davies.
  • Nelson Mandela entry. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism. Ed. John Stone.  2015. See also: ‘Nelson Mandela: Tribute’. Moving Worlds. 2014.
  • ‘The text in the world, the world through the text: Robert Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys’. Eds. Antoinette Burton and Isabel Hofmeyr. Ten Books that Shaped the British Empire: Creating an Imperial Commons. Durham NC: Duke University Press. 2014. pp. 131-52.
  • ‘Chinua Achebe, a Father of Modern African Literature’. PMLA 129.2 (March 2014): 237-9.
  • ‘Coetzee and Australia’. In Approaches to Teaching Coetzee’s Disgrace and Other Works. Ed. Laura Wright et al.  New York. Modern Languages Association. 2014.
  • ‘The World and the Postcolonial’. European Review 22.2. 2014. pp. 299-308.
  • ‘Nelson Mandela: The Oratory of the Black Pimpernel’. Africa's Peacemakers: Nobel Peace Laureates of African Descent. Edited by Adekeye Adebajo. London: Zed, 2013. pp. 161-77.
  • ‘Revisiting Resistance: Postcolonial Practice and the Antecedents of Theory’. The Oxford Handbook of Postcolonial Studies. Edited by Graham Huggan. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2013. pp. 307-23
  • ‘The zigzag lines of tentative connection: Indian-British contacts in the late nineteenth century’. India in Britain 1858-1950. Edited by Susheila Nasta. Palgrave Macmillan. 2013. pp. 12-27.
  • With Zoe Norridge and Charlotte Baker. ‘Tracing the Visible and the Invisible through African literature’. RAL 44.2 (2013). pp. v-xi.
  • ‘Foreword: Empire’s Vampires’. Dark Blood: Transnational and Postcolonial Vampires. Eds. Tabish Khair and Johan Hagglund. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. pp. 1-3.
  • ‘Perspectives on the South African War’. Cambridge History of South African Literature. Ed. Derek Attridge and David Attwell. Cambridge UP. 2012. pp. 310-38.
  • ‘J.M. Coetzee’s Australian Realism’. Postcolonial Poetics: Genre and Form. Edited by Patrick Crowley and Jane Hiddleston. Liverpool UP. 2011. pp. 202-218.
  • ‘Madiba Magic: Nelson Mandela’s Charisma’. Political Leadership, Nations and Charisma. Eds Margit Wunsch and Vivian Ibrahim. Routledge. 2012. pp. 161-70.
  • ‘J.M. Coetzee’s Australian Realism’. Strong Opinions: J.M. Coetzee and the Authority of Contemporary Fiction. Eds. Chris Danta, Sue Kossew, Julian Murphet. New York and London: Continuum, 2011.  pp. 3-18.
  • ‘The English Novel and the World’. End of Empire and the English Novel since 1945. Eds. Bill Schwarz and Rachael Gilmore. Manchester UP. 2011. 239-43.
  • ‘Modernism and Colonialism’. Cambridge Companion to Modernism. 2nd edn. Edited by Michael  Levenson. Cambridge UP. 2011. pp. 578-611.
  • ‘Katherine Mansfield as Colonial Modernist’. Celebrating Katherine Mansfield: A Centenary Volume of Essays. Edited by Gerri Kimber and Janet Wilson. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011. pp. 57-71.
  • ‘The Worlding of the Jingo Poem’. Yearbook of English Studies 41.2 Special issue on Nineteenth Century Globalization. Ed. Pablo Mukherjee. pp. 41-57. Extended version published as 'Circulating Forms: The Jingo Poem at the Height of Empire'. English Language Notes 49.1. Edited by Laura Winkiel. Spring/summer 2011. pp. 11-28.