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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

Dissertation Project:

Re-Considering American Avant-Garde and Neo-Avant-Garde Literature: Tropes of Futurity and Renewal

The project aims to accomplish a study on topes of futurity embedded in and owned by 20th and 21st century American avant-garde and neo-avant-garde's highly racialized canons. Bringing postmodern criticism in dialogue with Black contemporary cultural theory, the project intends to examine modernism's and postmodernism's programmatic quests for epistemic and aesthetic innovation. I will read white American avant-garde and neo-avant-garde texts in order to investigate how tropes of renewal and re-invention are tied to the exclusive capacity for futurity as represented in their respective canons. The study will consider how narrative techniques and discursive practices enabled racialized avant-garde's and neo-avant-garde's movements forward as their exclusive metaphysical and purportedly universal property. Thus, the project wants to address whether and how avant-garde's and neo-avant-garde's exclusive premises to embody futurity structurally relegated African American culture and knowledge to a stasis of perennial victimhood which could not generate social transformation and which was sealed as African American discourse in past-ness by white violence and grammar. Examining avant-garde's and neo-avant-garde's writing back to Pound's paradigmatic dictum to make it new, the project will question how both movements in their specific American configurations have claimed the right to a generativity of newness as an exclusive prerogative of white subjectivity, how this solipsistic structure appear and re-appear in the texts in question, and what kind of "cultural work" (Tompkins) these fictions have promoted with the effect of strengthening the racialized division of American culture.


*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 a Masters 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 First English Language School in Sofia, Mariya moved to Germany and started the blog The Walls Are Made of Sound (link below) as a personal documentation of experimental poetry and photography.

Research Interests

  • De-colonial Humanities
  • Intersectionality
  • Critical Whiteness Studies
  • Subversive Americanization
  • American avant-garde literature
  • Critical race theory


"On Breaking Dissertations, or How I Read Sideways." U.S. Studies Online: Forum for New Writing, 22 January 2018, http://www.baas.ac.uk/usso/on-breaking-dissertations-or-how-i-read-sideways/.

with Paula von Gleich (et al.). Eds. "Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies." Issue of COPAS 18.1(2017). Web. Link to publication: https://copas.uni-regensburg.de/issue/view/34.

Conference and Workshop Papers

10/2019 - 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.   

06/2019 - Guest lecture, 'How Whiteness Claimed the Future. Spectres of Newness in US-American Literature'. Symposium: African American and Africana Studies in Germany, Potsdam University. 

12/2018 - Conference paper, 'PROJECTORS OFF. Or, What Happens to Objects in Full Darkness'. Minor Cosmopolitan Weekend. Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin, Germany.

09/2018 - 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. 

06/2018 - 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.

03/2017 - Conference paper,  'Feminism on the Move'. Second Biennial EAAS Women' Network Symposium (European Association for American Studies Women's Network), Lausanne, Switzerland. 

07/2016 -  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

02/2018 – Co-Organizer, ‘Minor Cosmopolitan Justice and Aesthetics.’ Summer School, Macquarie University. Sydney, Australia.

02/2018- Moderator; Lecture by Prof. Alana Lentin, ‘The Invention of ‘Cultural Racism’ and the Apparent Resurgence of White Supremacy.’ Summer School. Sydney, Australia.

06/2017 – 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.

06/2017 – Panel Co-organizer and Moderator; "Meet the Speakers." Panel at the Annual Conference of the German Association of American Studies. Hannover, Germany.

10/2016 – Co-Organizer; "Postgraduate Forum." Annual Postgraduate Conference of the German Association of American Studies (DGfA/GAAS). Hamburg, Germany.

Photography, Poetry, Writing

Art Projects

Other Activities