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Mariya Nikolova

Doctoral Fellow


Campus Neues Palais
building 2, room 1.115

University of Potsdam
Am Neuen Palais 10
14469 Potsdam

Curriculum Vitae

2023- current: Lecturer at Bielefeld University

2020-2022: lecturer at the University of Potsdam, Humboldt University of Berlin, and Friedrich Schiller University Jena; researcher at Goldenstein Rechtsanwälte

November 2020: PhD., University of New South Wales/ Potsdam University, American Studies (summa cum laude)

2016-2020: RTG Minor Cosmopolitanisms, joint PhD fellowship (Sydney/Potsdam)

November 2015: MA, University of Bremen, Transnational Literature, Theatre, and Film

July 2011: BA, University of Bremen/Birmingham City University, English-Speaking Cultures/Political Science

Dissertation Project:

How Whiteness Claimed the Future. The Always New Vs. the Always Now in US-American Literature

Interested in the ideological workings of fiction, I examine how major avant-garde tropes promote the potential of permanent renewal as white America’s (re)birth and transformation. Renewal, in its broadest sense, ties to the capacities to create, progress, transcend, and simply be. From Black critique we know that, within dominant discourse, all these capacities have been stifled and denied to Black bodies ever since colonization. On the one hand, Black creative work and origin/ality have been fetishized, appropriated, stolen, and dismissed in and by dominant culture. On the other, Black being has been construed as negativity and barred on the level of ontology (Fanon, Wilderson, Warren). It follows then that racialization operates on multiple levels in the conceptual frame of renewal. I study this conceptualization by re-reading the works of and literary criticism on Kathy Acker, Don DeLillo, and Marilynne Robinson. More specifically, I examine how images of renewal enable the claim on futurity, transformative potential, and movement forward as exclusively white properties. Premised on oppositions between positive capacities and a state of complete incapacitation, these images are often viewed as separate constructions. With this project, I show that, deriving from white ideology, such representations are symbiotic and simultaneous. The “good” story of white renewal is inextricably linked to narrative and textual transgressions towards Blackness and Black being. I study these transgressions and the ways white literature has managed to alibi them out, and instead push forward an image of white morality, success, and heroism. In this regard, my project focuses not only on racist production as illustrated by the texts in question but also on the ways white ideology regulates writing and reading practices. I consider how tenets of whiteness – like the programmatic quest towards renewal – function on narrative and discursive level. For instance, I show that an avant-gardism embedded in whiteness positions white texts as ground-breaking and transformative despite their traditional tone, familiar repertoire, and lack of formal or conceptual innovation. Similarly, techniques such as textual deferral, omissions, and incorporation bar or defuse the critique which exposes the racist premises of white fiction. The project thus examines what kind of work this literature has promoted with the effect of strengthening the racialized division of American culture.


Born in 1987 in Haskovo, Bulgaria, Mariya Nikolova is a doctoral candidate of the Research Training Group Minor Cosmopolitanisms with a joint PhD fellowship at Potsdam University (Germany) and the University of New South Wales, Sydney (Australia). She is a member of  the doctoral network "Perspectives in the Cultural Analysis: Black Diaspora, Decoloniality, and Transnationalism". Mariya has worked as an interpreter for women affected by HIV at the Bremer Public Health Department and was coordinator of the Volunteer, English and Youth Zones Departments of the Bulgarian Youth and Children Parliament. She received an M.A. degree in Transnational Literature, Theater, and Film at the University of Bremen, Germany, and a Bachelor degree in English-Speaking Cultures and Political Science at the University of Bremen and Birmingham City University, GB. After graduating from First English Language School in Sofia, Mariya moved to Germany and started the blog The Walls Are Made of Sound as a personal documentation of experimental poetry and photography.

Areas of Interest in Research and Teaching

  • Critical Race Theory and Critiques of Modernity
  • Afropessimism
  • Avant-Garde literature & theatre
  • Performance Studies
  • Contemporary Anglophone literatures and cultures
  • Critical Whiteness Studies
  • Law & Literature
  • Gender, Feminism, and Queer Theory

Current Projects

• Contours/Conceptualizations of Emptiness


• “How Whiteness Claimed the Future.” De Gruyter, 20 Mar. 2023,


• with Nicole Waller and Verena Adamik, 'Changeling Genres and the Glamour of the Human: Victor LaValle’s The Changeling' , forthcoming.

•`Cult & Guts & Gender: S for Strength for Sabotage, F for Fuck Functionality' . Narrating, Representing, Reflecting ‘Disability: 21st American perspectives , forthcoming.

• 'Weiche Rahmen aus Baumwolle' ,  100% Baumwolle.TenDenZen, 2022.

• “Nekrologika.” MUZ 2, 2022.

• `Reaching the Limit. Or, How Kathy Acker Used Blackness to Abandon Haiti and Arrive Home Safely. ' The Minor on the Move. Doing Cosmopolitanisms, Edition Assemblage, 2021.

• “Jumpcut”& “Pinecones.” Minor Cosmopolitan: Thinking Art, Politics and the Universe Together Otherwise, Diaphanes, 2020.

• "On Breaking Dissertations, or How I Read Sideways." U.S. Studies Online: Forum for New Writing, 22 January 2018, dissertations-or-how-i- readsideways/

• “White Violence and Spectral Blackness in Don DeLillo’s Zero K.” COPAS: Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies, Vol 20, No. 2, https://copas.uni->

• , et al."Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies." COPAS 18.1(2017). https://copas.uni->

• “Race.” Critical Cultural Literacy Online


Conference and Workshop Papers

October 2019 – Guest lecture, 'Antiblack Violence and White Risk in Kathy Acker's Kathy Goes to Haiti'.  Research Seminar Series. School of the Arts and Media. University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.   

June 2019 – Guest lecture, 'How Whiteness Claimed the Future. Spectres of Newness in US-American Literature'. Symposium: African American and Africana Studies in Germany, Potsdam University. 

December 2018 – Conference paper, 'PROJECTORS OFF. Or, What Happens to Objects in Full Darkness'. Minor Cosmopolitan Weekend. Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin, Germany.

September 2018 – Guest lecture, 'Miss/Reading Beloved: White Feminists' Violence and Imagining the Future.' Research Seminar Series. School of the Arts and Media. University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. 

June 2018 – Conference paper, 'Split Future(s)- Trans*Posing Bodies. Interventions on Materialities and Flight.' Critical Insurrections: Decolonizing Difficulties, Activist Imaginaries, and Collective Possibilities: The 4th Critical Ethnic Studies Association Conference. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. Unceded Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish Territory.

March 2017 – Conference paper,  'Feminism on the Move'. Second Biennial EAAS Women' Network Symposium (European Association for American Studies Women's Network), Lausanne, Switzerland. 

July 2016 – Conference paper, 'Madness and the End of the World - Tropes and Territories of White Violence in Reading Toni Morrison's Beloved'. 9th Global Meeting of Madness Project, Oxford, UK.

Conference and Workshop Organisation

February 2018 – Co-Organizer, ‘Minor Cosmopolitan Justice and Aesthetics.’ Summer School, Macquarie University. Sydney, Australia.

February 2018 – Moderator; Lecture by Prof. Alana Lentin, ‘The Invention of ‘Cultural Racism’ and the Apparent Resurgence of White Supremacy.’ Summer School. Sydney, Australia.

June 2017 – Co-Organizer and Moderator; Guest Lecture by Natasha A. Kelly, "Afro-Culture: On being Human and other Myths." Lecture series Minor Cosmopolitan Theories. Potsdam, Germany.

June 2017 – Panel Co-organizer and Moderator; "Meet the Speakers." Panel at the Annual Conference of the German Association of American Studies. Hannover, Germany.

October 2016 – Co-Organizer; "Postgraduate Forum." Annual Postgraduate Conference of the German Association of American Studies (DGfA/GAAS). Hamburg, Germany.

Art Projects

Other Activities