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Lucy Gasser

Doctoral Fellow

    Dissertation Project


    Mapping Other Europes

    How do we imagine Europe? How are its internal divisions discursively and imaginatively produced and represented? Oftentimes, ‘Europe’ is construed as uniformly privileged, and/or conflated with ‘the West, Western Europe, or the EU. East Central Europe, it seems, remains elusive to the cultural imagination of ‘the West’: unknown or invisible, assumed homogeneous within itself, and understood as the provenance of undesirables. Engaging conversations in world literature studies and adapting post-colonial/decolonial theory for (post-)Soviet contexts, I argue for the need to locate narratives about and from this region that counter or resist those that are dominant, and relegate East Central Europe to the (‘backward’ or ‘uncivilised’) periphery. When we think Europe, I propose a twofold shift in focus: in the first place, through an analysis of some of the cultural products of writers from the region formerly subsumed by the Soviet Union; in the second, by looking to perspectives on this region from the global South, with India and South Africa as particular instantiations. I look to the work of Milan Kundera, Herta Müller and Libuše Moníková for a refiguring of the imaginative map of Europe from within it; and I read Rabindranath Tagore, Nirmal Verma, Bhisham Sahni and I. Allan Sealy from India, and Laurens van der Post, Pauline Podbrey and Alex La Guma from South Africa, amongst others, to draw out the imaginative constitution of this space from perspectives in the global South. These writers and their work co-produce the imaginative map of Europe, and suggest important counter-voices to those that evoke East Central Europe as a region wild and unknown. They create and foster alternative imaginings of ‘Europe’ as both descriptive and normative category, and suggest lines of movement and connections that bypass ‘the West’, undermining notions of it as civilizational and cultural centre or origin.


    After a B.A. majoring in English Literature, French Literature, and Film Studies, I completed a two-year coursework Masters in English Language, Literature, and Modernity at the University of Cape Town. In my M.A. dissertation, I explored issues of (cultural) translation in the Anglosphere of America and Britain within the context of the Cold War. During this time, I also taught in the English, Film, and Philosophy departments of UCT, as well as working as a research assistant and academic writing tutor. In 2014, I moved to Berlin to begin work on a PhD project at the Freie Universität, where I also taught a number of seminars in the English Institute. I became a fellow of the RTG Minor Cosmopolitanisms in 2016.

    Research Interests

    (include but are not limited to):

    • World Literature Studies
    • Post-Colonial Theory
    • South African Literature
    • Cold War Literature
    • Geo-Criticism
    • Literary Mapping
    • Translation


    "Herta Müller's East/Central European Network: Romania, Russia and Germany in The Passport." Oxford Research in English 2 (Winter 2015).

    "Johannesburg: Resisting the Imagination." Scrutiny2, 19:1 (2014).