Universiteit Leiden

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Nike van Helden

PhD candidate

Drs. N. van Helden MA MPhil
+31 71 527 2727

Nike van Helden is an external PhD and Lecturer at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society. Her research focusses on the recognizability of human subjects and its relationship with (self-)expression. Nike had a background in Latin American Studies and has specialized in Cuban literature.

More information about Nike van Helden

Fields of interest

  • Cuban literature
  • Latin American literature
  • Literary freedom
  • Critique
  • Subjectivity
  • (Self-)censorship
  • Otherness
  • Monstrosity
  • (Neo)baroque


Within my research I explore how the rights and obligations involved in (self-)expression are related to the recognizability of human subjects. I explore how language is wielded within a particular context, in order to reveal the (ironic) processes through which certain types of being are rendered possible, while others are made impossible.

In my work I thus explore the relationship between governance, (self-)expression and subjectivity. I am particularly interested in the role of critique within this context.  

At present I am working on the concept of (literary) freedom and the effects of self-censorship within the literary field in Cuba, between 1961 and 1971. I base myself on the later work of Foucault, and particularly on his idea of revolutionary subjectivity, to analyze novels from the Cuban writers Reinaldo Arenas, Virgilio Piñera and Edmundo Desnoes.

I analyze how the concepts of subjectivity, expression and freedom are presented in their fiction and relate this to the cultural debates from the sixties in which the revolutionary representatives and intellectuals discussed the role of the intellectual, the function of the arts and the limits of artistic freedom within the revolution.

In previous work, I focused on the recognizability of human subjects as well, writing about monstrosity in the short stories of Reinaldo Arenas and madness in Desde los blancos manicomios de Margarita Mateo Palmer.

Curriculum Vitae


MPhil Latin American and Amerindian Studies, Leiden University, 2007-2008 (Literature).
Thesis title: Capturando al monstruo: Una relectura neobarroca de la tesina.

MA Latin American Studies, Leiden University, 2001-2006 (Literature)
Thesis title: Los monstruos de Reinaldo Arenas: Un estudio sobre los monstruos en Algo sucede en el último balcón, Monstruo I y Monstruo II.

PhD candidate

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Centre for the Arts in Society
  • Literatuurwetenschap

No relevant ancillary activities

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