Universiteit Leiden

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Ksenia Robbe

University Lecturer

Dr. K. Robbe
+31 71 527 2358

Ksenia Robbe works in the fields of African, Russian and Comparative literature. Her current research engages cultural and aesthetic practices of remembering the 1980-90s transitions in post-Soviet and post-apartheid contexts. It aims to elucidate the entanglements of re-imagining dissent in postcolonial and post-socialist contexts in the times of disillusionment and crisis.
Her doctoral research explored the possibilities of writing transcultural literary history in South Africa, focusing on dialogues around imaginations of motherhood and politics in women's writing. The book based on this research, Conversations of Motherhood, was published in 2015.

More information about Ksenia Robbe

Fields of interest

  • South African literature, art and theatre
  • Contemporary Russian literature and art
  • Postcolonial and post-socialist memory practices


Post-Soviet Nostalgia: Confronting the Empire’s Legacies. Ed. by Otto Boele, Boris Noordenbos and Ksenia Robbe. London & New York: Routledge, 2019, forthcoming.

Conversations of Motherhood: South African Women's Writing Across Traditions, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg, 2015.

Articles and book chapters

“Confronting Disillusionment: On the Rediscovery of Socialist Archives in Recent South African Cultural Production”, Safundi, 2018, pp. 398-415.

''Anything is Possible': Rethinking the Politics of Transition through a Poetics of Failure in the Works of William Kentridge and Dmitry Gutov”, Third Text, 2017, pp. 403-419.

“Performances of Migration and Motherhood: Addressing the Silences of Gendered Waiting in Two South African Plays.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing, accepted for publication.

“Nostalgia Inside Out: Re-addressing Loss in Andrei Astvatsaturov’s Novels”, in O. Boele, B. Noordenbos and K. Robbe (eds), Post-Soviet Nostalgia: Confronting the Empire’s Legacies. London & New York: Routledge, forthcoming in 2019.

“An Unfinished Homecoming: Postmemory, Place and New Practices of Politicization in the Plays of Nadia Davids and Amy Jephta”, in M. Maufort and Jessica Maufirt (eds), New Stage Idioms: Contemporary South African Theatre, Brill Cross/Cultures, forthcoming in 2019.

“Shaping 'Common Places': Post-Soviet Narratives beyond Anti-Utopia in Ksenia Buksha’s The Freedom Factory and Igor Saveljev’s Tereshkova is Flying to Mars”, in E. Peeren, H. Stuit & A. van Weyenberg (eds), Peripheral Visions in the Globalizing Present: Space, Mobility, Aesthetics, vol. 31, Brill-Rodopi, Leiden-Boston, 2016, pp. 222-240.


My current research focuses on practices of memory in post-soviet and post-apartheid literature, theatre and visual art. I am approaching contemporary expressions of disillusionment, dissatisfaction and resentment in these post-repressive societies through the lens of nostalgia as a practice of resisting narratives of transition. This research engages the possibilities of public culture and transnational linkages against the backdrop of persisting Cold-War imaginaries and reinforced social inequalities. As part of this project, which will form the basis for my second book, I have co-edited a volume on post-Soviet nostalgia (together with Otto Boele and Boris Noordenbos), forthcoming in the Routledge Cultural History series in 2019, and I am currently co-editing a special issue on remembering transitions across post-socialist and post-apartheid contexts (together with Manuel Ghilarducci).

This research has been facilitated by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie EURIAS fellowship for a research stay at the Polish Institute for Advanced Studies in the spring semester of 2019.

A related project, together with Daniela Vicherat-Mattar, has focused on the study of memory and public spaces in post-transitional societies of the Global South, through practices of street art in Cape Town and Santiago. Two graduate student research traineeships to facilitate this project have been funded by a Leiden University Faculty of Humanities grant in 2018.

Along with memory practices in the postcolonies of the Global South, I have been interested in recent and possible future theorizations of memory in post-socialist contexts. As a core member of the recently formed Memory Studies Association's working group 'Postsocialist and Comparative Memory Studies', I hope to contribute to developing new theoretical frameworks within this field.

I welcome supervision of graduate and postgraduate projects in postcolonial and post-socialist memory, transnational memory frameworks, aesthetics of 'transition', and cultural constructions of public spaces and 'the common'.


Courses currently taught
  • Postcolonial Representations (BA Hons)
  • Global Memory Practices (BA)
  • Censorship and Social Transformation (BA)
  • Introduction to Gender Studies (BA Hons)
  • Thesis Seminar ‘Russia & Eurasia’ (BA)
  • Literature, Art and Culture in Africa (MA)
  • Literature and Society, co-teaching (MA)
Courses previously taught
  • Culture: Africa (BA)
  • Globalisation and Cultural Studies (BA)
  • Art of Reading (BA Hons)
  • Postcolonial Intellectuals and Exile (MA)
  • Engendering Transformation: African Women’s Writing (BA)
  • Introduction to South African Literatures (BA)

Curriculum vitae

Research and teaching positions

March - July 2019 - EURIAS Visiting research fellow at the Polish Institute for Advanced Studies

Since August 2012 - Assistant professor at LUCAS, Leiden University (tenured since August 2018)

March -July 2012 - Lecturer at the English Department, Chair of English, Postcolonial and Media Studies, University of Münster, Germany

Jan. - March 2012 Postdoctoral Fellow with the Research Group Universality and the Acceptance Potential of Social Knowledge: On the Circulation of Knowledge between Europe and the Global South, University of Freiburg, Germany

Nov. 2011 – Feb. 2012 Research Assistant in International Affairs at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture, University of Giessen, Germany

Oct. 2007 – Sept. 2011 Ph.D. Fellow at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC), Gießen, Germany

Research stays
African Studies Centre, Leiden (2017)
Centre for African Studies, Cape Town (June-July 2013)
Fieldwork in Cape Town (July 2014, January 2017) and St. Petersburg/ Moscow (July 2017)

Academic degrees

November 2011 Ph.D. in English and American Literary and Cultural Studies (summa cum laude), University of Giessen
Thesis: “Dialogics of Motherhood: South African Women’s Writing and the Politics of Translocation”
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Ansgar Nünning (University of Giessen), Prof. Dr. Ena Jansen (University of Amsterdam)

July 2005 M.A. in African Studies/African Literatures (with distinction), Faculty of Oriental and African Studies, St. Petersburg State University

2005 B.A. in Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language, Department of Russian as a Foreign Language, St. Petersburg State University

2004 M.A. in Translation and Interpretation, English-Russian, Department of English Language and Translation/Fedorov Centre for Translation Studies, St. Petersburg State University

2003 B.A. in African Studies, Languages and Cultures of Southern Africa (with distinction), Faculty of Oriental and African Studies, St. Petersburg State University

Grants and awards

  • Marie Slodowska-Curie EURIAS fellowship 2018/19

  • Leiden University Faculty of Humanities research traineeship grant, 2018

  • Part-time research leave grant awarded by the African Studies Centre, Leiden for 2017

  • Prize of the Society for Dutch Literature for the best article published in 2015-16

  • Herbert Stolzenberg Award for an outstanding Ph.D.-thesis in the study of culture, 2012

  • Post-doc scholarship with the Research Group 'Universality and the Acceptance Potential of Social Knowledge: On the Circulation of Knowledge between Europe and the Global South’, University of Freiburg, 4 months in 2012

  • Ph.D. scholarship funded by the German Research Foundation’s (DFG) Excellence Initiative, 2007-2011

  • Award for the best B.A. thesis in philology, St. Petersburg State University, 2004 


University Lecturer

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Centre for the Arts in Society
  • KG Moderne beeldende kunst

Work address

van Wijkplaats
Van Wijkplaats 2
2311 BX Leiden
Room number 1.03a



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