PhD student

Room: E838
Telephone: +46 (0)8 16 42 25
Office hours: by appointment

PhD Project

My PhD project provides a diachronic study of the interaction of sexuality and spatiality in South African English language novels from the early twentieth century until the first decade of the twenty-first century.

Literary critics have looked at South African literature in terms of space (Barnard 2006; Darian-Smith et al 1996; Graham 2009) and in terms of sexuality (Munro 2012; Pucherová 2011; Stobie 2007) but have not brought the two together in one study. It is vital to do so, given how pivotal the regulation of movement and sexual desire – underpinned by regimes of racialisation – has been in the shaping of modern South Africa. In this context, the dissertation argues, the selected literary narratives provide a range of complex aesthetic responses to this conflictual historical predicament.

The project covers four main time periods in South African literature. The first chapter is focused on the entanglements of sexuality and space in early South African literature and looks at Olive Schreiner and R.R.R. Dhlomo. The second chapter investigates literature during the initial stages of apartheid, reading Bessie Head’s The Cardinals in relation to Drum magazine of the 1950s. The third chapter concerns notions of futurity and its connection to reproduction in the 1970s “anti-pastorals” by J.M. Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer. Finally, the fourth chapter turns to the early 21stcentury and queer sexuality and national and international migration in novels by Damon Galgut and Phaswane Mpe.

My PhD degree is part of a cotutelle with Justus Liebig University Giessen in Germany through the international network PhDnet in Literary and Cultural Studies.

Research Interests

My general research interests are in queer theory, sexuality and gender studies, postcolonial studies, South African literature, African literature, and I also have a side interest in South American literature and in film studies.


I hold an MA from the University of Sussex in Sexual Dissidence in Literature and Culture (2013) and a BA in English from Uppsala University (2011). I also did an MA (hons) in International Relations and Spanish at the University of St Andrews (2010).

I have worked with higher education policy in the UK for the 1994 Group and for the Council of Deans of Health and as a curriculum administrator at City College Brighton and Hove.


Editorial responsibility

(with Heidi Barends) guest editor. Between ‘the lights and shadows’: Reading the new edition of Olive Schreiner’s From Man to Man or Perhaps Only –  special issue of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature (forthcoming).

Articles (peer reviewed)

(with Heidi Barends) “Afterword: Publishing an Academic Edition of From Man to Man or Perhaps Only – in South Africa.” Between ‘the lights and shadow’, special issue of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature (forthcoming).

(with Heidi Barends) Introduction to special issue “Between ‘the lights and shadows’: Reading the new edition of Olive Schreiner’s From Man to Man or Perhaps Only – ” of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature (forthcoming).

(with Heidi Barends). Interview. “Current Perspectives on Olive Schreiner’s From Man to Man or Perhaps Only – .” Between ‘the lights and shadow’, special issue of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 2019 (online). 1-17.

Book chapters

“Queering Form and Content: A Crisis of Whiteness in Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist (1974) and J.M. Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country (1977).” Literature and Crises: Conceptual Explorations and Literary Negotiations, edited by Elizabeth Kovach, Ansgar Nünning, Imke Polland, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2017.

“Pop cultural” publications

“Queer Movements: Sexual Desire, Space and Home in Damon Galgut’s In a Strange Room and Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow.” LitNet, 27.08.14,


Selected Conference Presentations

02.04.19: Guest speaker “‘A revolting immoral place’: Town Life and Sexuality in R.R.R. Dhlomo's An African Tragedy” at seminar series “African Places, African Spaces”, Leeds University.

14.11.18: Invited guest speaker. “‘A revolting immoral place’: Town Life and Sexuality in R.R.R. Dhlomo's An African Tragedy.” African Feminist Initiative, Penn State.

25.08.17: “Travel writing and the boundary between the vernacular and the cosmopolitan: Damon Galgut’s In a Strange Room and the renegotiation of the South African transition novel.” Loose Tongues, Stockholm University.

08.07.17: "Space, Desire and Belonging in South African Literature.” ACLA, Utrecht University.

11.07.16: “Sexual Entanglements of Spatial Belonging – Olive Schreiner’s From Man to Man.” ACLALS, Stellenbosch University.

4.02.16: “Dis-placed Desires in Colonial South Africa: Olive Schreiner’s From Man to Man.” CrossCurrents: Current Research in the Humanities, University of Cape Town.

20-23.8.15: Nivesjö, S. “Failed Futurity: Sexuality and Whiteness in the Farm Novel of High Apartheid.” Concurrences in Postcolonial Research – Perspectives, Methodologies, Engagements. Linneaus University.

16.6.15: Invitee to Spotlight Session “Feminist Cultural Studies: Gender, Nation, Migration.” In the Flow: People, Media, Materialities. ACSIS. 

7-10.4.15: Nivesjö, S. “Negotiating Modernity through Sexual Entanglements of the Urban, the Rural and the International: Phaswane Mpe's Welcome to Our Hillbrow.” Gendered Modernities in Motion, University of Pretoria.

7.2.15: Nivesjö, S. “Travelling to Learn, Encountering Desire – Entanglements in African Intellectual Mobility.” African Intellectual Mobilities: Diasporic Travel and Texts, Past and Present, University of York.

11-12.04.14: Nivesjö, S. “Queer Sexuality and Postcolonial Trauma: Same-Sex Desires in Our Sister Killjoy.” The Future of Trauma and Memory Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

10.05.13: Nivesjö, S. “The (im)possibility of bisexuality on TV: male bisexual identity in Bob & Rose and Torchwood.” ROLES: Third Annual Postgraduate Gender and Sexuality Conference, University of Birmingham.