Name: Dr Zoe Norridge
Research institution: Department of English and Programme in Comparative Literature, King’s College London
Research career length: 7 years
Research Council: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Location: London, England
Brief summary of research: African literature cultural responses to the genocide in Rwanda
A-levels: French, Chemistry, Music
BA Hons Modern Languages (University of Cambridge)
MPhil in European Literature (University of Cambridge)
PhD in African Literature, University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
Health Promotion professional working for Cancer Research UK, Terrence Higgins Trust and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Papua New Guinea
Salvesen Fellow in African and Comparative Literature at New College, University of Oxford
Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature, Department of English and Related Literature, University of York
“Cultural research carefully examines representations in books, films, museums and elsewhere that we might otherwise accept. Through this research we hope to influence the generation of new texts that work towards creating a fairer, more empathic world.”
My current work examines how writers and filmmakers have responded to the genocide in Rwanda. In 1994, up to a million people were killed in just three months. In the eighteen years since genocide memorials have been created across the country, many at sites of massacre and burial. I'm interested in how these memorials influence representations of the genocide, which in turn may affect how future generations perceive the events. In my work, I collaborate with Rwandans and visitors to Rwanda working in the arts, heritage and peace-building.
I came to this through my passion for African literature. I also have a strong interest in human pain, suffering, trauma and the potential role of storytelling in the healing process. My family were always fascinated with reading and writing - my father is a journalist, my mother was doing a PhD when she had me (she never finished). I was inspired by them and also by some of the academics who taught me at Cambridge, where I benefited greatly from individual tuition and enormous freedom to pursue my own research interests.
I had a previous career in health promotion working for Cancer Research UK and the Terrence Higgins Trust in the UK and VSO in Papua New Guinea. This work still informs my writing about illness narratives and my time in Papua New Guinea offered me the opportunity to research literature about the Bougainville conflict that became an academic article.
After completing my PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies, I became the Salvesen Fellow in African and Comparative Literature at New College, Oxford, and then went on to a lectureship at the University of York. At York, I was the Director of the “Aftermaths” research strand and taught a wide range of students – from undergraduate level to PhD. In September 2012, I moved to King’s College London where I have a joint lectureship between the Department of English and the Programme in Comparative Literature. I’ve designed a range of new courses for next year including specialist modules on African literature and Testimony (looking at responses to the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda).
In the arts and humanities our working lives are very varied. During term time I'm constantly surrounded by students, during the university holidays I mostly work on my own. I travel a fair bit and visit Rwanda regularly. I have presented my research around the world – from Cape Town to Seattle, Accra to Newcastle.
I’m motivated by the intellectual challenge of my work and enjoy collaborating with artists urgently engaged in the contemporary world. One of the most rewarding aspects of my teaching is the opportunity to inspire students to look beyond the traditional boundaries of ‘English’ literature.
In 2011, I was selected by the BBC and AHRC as one of ten New Generation Thinkers. This scheme offers researchers the chance to communicate the excitement of their work to a range of audiences through radio.